World music can be a revelation, and with the new album, Ten Hand Band, Balval chooses to share their “musical statement of a band” with their fans. The Parisian band offers a gypsy sound in both French and English.
Balval is lead singer Awena Burgess, vocalist/violinist, Rosalie Hartog, guitarist, Mizrahi, bassist Benjamin Body, and percussionist Patrick Gigon. The group was formed in 2005. In Romani, the language of the gypsies, balval means “the wind.” Band members have appeared at international venues like the New York Gypsy Festival.
Burgess, the lead singer, embraces gypsy flair throughout the album, and brings it to another level. The first song, “Tell Us, Beautiful Girl,” is exuberant, with fierce harmonies and a driving melody. The lead vocals call out, going up the scale. “All but Gone” is a witty, sly song. In “Insomnia,” a quick-paced fiddle makes artful noise. Vocals have a chanting rhythm. Banging percussion plays in the background. The instrumentation makes for a track that is elusive and a bit harrowing. “Out Inside” begins with the beat of a drum and a whisper. The song urges the listener to “breathe in and breathe out.”
“Tear It Down” picks up the tempo again, adding some electric guitar to go with an electric violin. It is scratchy, energetic, and vibrant. The vocals scream out, in a bit of bravado. Though it is loud, it never sounds like agro-rock. “Night Watch” is deeply dramatic, welcoming strings and great harmonies. The song would be welcome in a film. “Sypsey River” sounds like the best of cabaret music. “Money in the Bank,” in both English and French, discusses the trappings of money, with the whirling sounds of violins. “Songs of the Birds,” introduces guitar and ignites the lead singer’s heart. The album winds up with the reserved and melodic, “Khala.”
Gypsy music like this, released on the Whaling City Sound label, is a rare find. Balval’s Ten Hand Band is worth a listen.