As sounds of Mariachi and gypsy music collide with folk and punk, the eclectic quartet DeVotchKa is back with its latest release, 100 Lovers. The band’s fifth album was recorded in the Arizona desert alongside producing talent Craig Schumacher (Neko Case, Calexico) after returning from an international tour that included playing for massive crowds with Muse. Needless to say, DeVotchKa has come a long way since its days of playing for a touring burlesque troupe and 100 Lovers exhibits that evolution while remaining true to what the band represents.
Clearly influenced by working with composer Mychael Danna on the score for Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, 100 Lovers is an almost cinematic experience. The album opens with “The Alley,” featuring layers of celestial strings and ambient noises that support the powerful presence of drums, guitar, and Nick Urata’s voice floating above. The space that DeVotchKa typically reserves in order to highlight its impressive instrumentals is enriched by the band’s brilliant efforts in the studio, offering a multi-dimensional experience on many of the album’s tracks.
The second half returns to the sound of DeVotchKa’s origins, allowing some space for instrumentals to shine through, as the earlier support by string sections and heavily effected noise transforms into horns and ethnic drums. The band’s Mariachi influence is unmistakably clear in “Back Luck Heels” and accordionist Tom Hagerman delivers that anticipated gypsy sound in tracks like “Ruthless” and “Contrabanda.”
The two directions that this album is being pulled—an elaborate palate of dense sound and color, and the energetic atmosphere of live musicianship—clearly contrast each other. However, both aspects of the album exemplify great music played by great musicians and should be anything but a disappointment.