Their debut, Laughter Through Tears (2004), got my attention, but Oi Va Voi’s ‘difficult second’ album has me completely sold on their unusual talent
Though the first album has a couple of very good songs, as a whole it doesn’t seem to form anything coherent, not that I could get into anyway. Jumping back and forth between klezmer and ballad there was no glue. Not so of their eponymously named second album which offers some connecting thread between Russian ska and self reflecting melodic blankets.
Kicking off with a seemlingly Sputnik (as in the satellite) inspired track suitable for the dancefloor, the very next song takes you into soul searching contemplation with vocalist, Alice McLaughlin’s powerful delivery. Similarly, Steve Levi’s voice is gentle and moving. The album seems to be held together partly by the genuine emotion of the lyrics. ‘Look-Down’s “don’t let go of my hand, I’m doing anything not to look down…I’m feeling my way one step at a time” or ‘Dry-Your-Eyes’ “when all is turned to grey we’ll be born again as birds, learn how to fly away, life won’t be so absurd.” Marry all this with a beautifully balanced orchestration of horn, (Levi’s) clarinet and strings, and you end up with some pretty perfect pop songs really, easy on the klezmer. This music could be the soundtrack to life’s ups and downs.
You could be forgiven for confusing McLaughlin’s vocals with her predecessor’s, KT Tunstall, with their similar range and raspyness. The band seems to lose their ultra talented (female) members here and there. Both Tunstall, and violinist Sophie Solomon left to pursue very successful solo careers and by the looks of things McLaughlin is doing some impressive solo work as well. I hope at least the key movers, Nik Ammur and Levi hold together as a project partly because I still have yet to see them live, but also Oi Va Voi’s evolution is something to watch.