By Frank Alkyer | Published May 2021
OK, confession time. I have not seen the Netflix series Babylon Berlin, but I can tell you that the music is awesome because the Moka Efti Orchestra, a 14-member ensemble cast in the series, has just released a new album called Erstausgabe. The group was created by the show’s music supervisor, composer Nikko Weidemann, and his fellow composer Mario Kamien, along with saxophonist/arranger Sebastian Borkowski. It’s named after a famous German club that has been re-created for Babylon Berlin, a show set in the 1920s in, you guessed it, Berlin. The music is of the crazy-good cabaret variety that might just remind you of a certain famous musical by the same name because of the setting and the sound. “Hollander Mash Up” grabs you from the downbeat with all the jump, jive and wail the band can muster. “Zu Asche, Zu Staub (To Ashes, To Dust)” has a delicious, menacing drive that builds like a cabaret aria. The band draws from a vast lexicon of swing-feel, ragtime, Chanson and even the blues, and blows it all through your ears with hyper-cool energy and tongue-in-cheek nonchalance over the course of 13 tunes brimming with throw-back reverence and send-it-way-up camp. The vocalists on the set are also thoroughly entertaining, especially the coquettishly controlled bawdiness of show star Severija Janušauskaitė. If you ever get a jones for some highly theatrical, masterfully played big band noir, this is a record for you. Meantime, I’ve got some quality TV binging to catch up on.