On their new single the godfathers of techno adhere closely to the classic Kraftwerk sound. “Expo 2000,” in all four variations here, features lush synthetic melodies and vocodered voices dropping in lines like “the 21st century…” and “man… nature…technology…” over and over. (In English and German!) The beats are firmly mid-tempo save for the “2002” mix (my favorite), which adds a funky bassline. Not a classic but certainly a respectable showing from these electro-pioneers.
Another delicious bomb from Miami’s Chocolate Industries label. Ko-Wreck Technique is a collaboration between Push Button Objects, providing the sonic crunch and fuzz, and world class turntablist DJ Craze, wailing away on the 1’s and 2’s. Two great tastes that taste great together! And if that’s not enough, for dessert you get a Plaid remix of the track “Metro Dade.” That one’s a real soundclash, with Plaid’s typically beautiful melodies wafting over and around the gritty original. But this four-track EP is more than just a hodge-podge of styles; it’s a unique and successful fusion that I hope will continue on to other projects.
Even before your needle hits the groove, this album’s epic-length title suggests that you’re about to experience a classic dub clash. And you will not be disappointed! Lloyd “King Jammy” James is a protege of King Tubby and one of the most successful producers in the history of reggae. And Japan’s Dry & Heavy are the most impressive new dub band to come down the pike in recent memory. Put them together and you’ve got a whole lotta bin shakin’ going on! This is a wonderfully gritty dub excursion, so full of reverb and distortion that it’s almost psychedelic. Tracks given the King Jammy treatment come from Dry & Heavy’s two most recent albums, ONE PUNCH and FULL CONTACT. You will almost feel the room cloud up as you listen.
Here’s the second release from Michigan trio Kiln, and their first for Ghostly International, quite simply one of the best electronic labels in the U.S. Kiln’s music veers from the burbly and dubby to the clicky and glitchy, while consistently maintaining a delicate melodic component that brings out the warmth between the beats. Definitely a candidate for headphone listening; there are many varied textures here that will tickle your earholes.
Zeljko (pronounced “Zhelko”) Kerleta is an architect from Yugoslavia, currently resident in London. He first started making music as soundtracks for presenting his architectural projects, then was so excited about the results that he abandoned architecture to concentrate exclusively on musical projects. He says his songs are all “soundtracks to short imaginary movies,” descriptions of which can be found in the album’s liner notes. Inspired by 60’s and 70’s jazz, as well as the London jazz dance scene, these short vignettes sound to me like the modern equivalent to all those albums of old production library music: extremely evocative but without much overall structure. There are some VERY cool sounds on here, though, and I think Kerleta is worth keeping an eye on.
This four-piece band from the UK has assimilated a variety of influences, from 70’s jazz fusion to Steve Reich minimalism to modern drum’n’bass, and recombined them in a wholly original manner. MESSAGES FROM THE HUB is their first proper album, following a compilation of EP tracks. It’s a languid, jazzy affair with REAL instruments and REAL electronics, an attempt at bringing the improvisational qualities of jazz into the electronic arena. Female vocals enhance a few tracks, including a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” Bandleader Jamie Odell also records as Audiomontage.
Carl Craig’s long-awaited “techno-jazz” project finally sees the light of day and boy, was it worth the wait! But calling this album “techno-jazz” would really be doing it a disservice. Craig draws on MANY aspects of black music, from rap to house to soul to electro and beyond, with jazz as the glue holding it all together. Without a doubt this is the most ambitious album EVER by a Detroit techno artist. A subtle and beautiful album, full of depth and character. Strong candidate for Album of the Year.
According to the liner notes, this is the third album from former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper’s band, Hughscore. Hopper jokingly suggests this might be his “New Age” album. Well, it IS pretty quiet and contemplative in spots. But at other times it’s pretty out there. Of particular note is vocalist Elaine di Falco, who sings on five of the album’s nine tracks, and drummer Tucker Martine, who provides some exceptional backing. Whether you prefer the ethereal jazz vibes or the modern prog experimentalism, you’ll find something to like on this album.
Former Tangerine Dream-er Paul Haslinger returns with his second solo album of sampla-delic world fusion. The title and cover art of this one suggest a film soundtrack, but the music is far too busy and at times even too LOUD to function in that capacity. It does, however, take elements of soundtrack music and weave them in and around a plethora of sample library sound effects, ethnic vocals, and funky beats to create a captivating sonic stew. There’s one honest-to-God pop song (“When Worlds Collide”), a downtempo ballad with female vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place under the credits of the next James Bond film. The rest of the album is a bit more adventurous.
Here we have a trio of animation professionals from southern California who moonlight as the band Gigante, combining analog synths, live and programmed beats, guitar and bass into a spacey and exotic instrumental mixture. Mostly lo-fi and low- key, with a jazzy sort of attitude, Gigante! sounds at times like a Martin Denny version of post-rock. They appear to be equally adept at playing live, as the two live tracks on here attest. Very intriguing release.
Gadget’s sound is a unique fusion of hip hop and electronics, both funky and tweaked. “Black Acura” features a sort of electronic siren over heavy beats, ever-so-slightly augmented by acoustic instruments. “Wide Open” commands you to “open up your mind” via scratched vocals over electronically distorted beats; the “Low Down Mix” adds some Eastern flavor. “Behold the Future” is a throwaway that begins with an answering machine and degenerates into electronic wankery. An interesting debut, though.
Congratulations on your purchase of the new Funkstorung Audio Processor! With this remarkable new device, any musical performance may be reconfigured to the Funkstorung aesthetic for easier integration into your busy lifestyle. Previously- irritating music by artists such as Bjork, Finitribe, and Wu- Tang Clan will be effortlessly replaced by the exhilarating electronic aesthetic of the Music Aus Strom group of companies. To get started quickly, simply insert the silver Funkstorung Audio Processor disc into any CD player, and press “Play.” For more detailed instructions, or information on additional Funkstorung lifestyle accessories, please consult the Aesthetic Standards Manual included in this box. Thank you for selecting Funkstorung.
Founded in 1988, The Fire This Time is a musical and political collective which attempts to maintain a dialogue and cooperation between African and indigenous peoples around the world. In 1994, they released the album DANCING ON JOHN WAYNE’S HEAD, and four years later, they’re still dancing. Ethno-dub is the name of the game here, with “guest speakers” Chuck D, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and samples of various and sundry indigenous peoples. Among the better-known producers involved in the project are Michael Franti, Asian Dub Foundation, Mad Professor, and Adrian Sherwood. The tracks are varied enough in style and substance to really think of this as a Various Artists compilation, and all tracks are well worth checking out.
Pop singer Francis Faye was reaching for a new audience when she cut this album of jazz-inflected folk songs in the late 50’s. Arranged by Russ “Fantastica!” Garcia, the album is apparently a one-of-a-kind entry in the Faye catalog, and perhaps a one-of-a-kind effort in all regards. The orchestral arrangements are incredibly vibrant, especially on the jazzier cuts “Frankie and Johnny” and “St. James Infirmary.” I’ve always been partial to “John Henry” and it’s also given a swell treatment here, complete with steel drivin’ and engine chuggin’. Faye’s vocals are husky but strong, and easily hold their own against Garcia’s powerful orchestra. An unusual but very successful album.
Here we have Michael Fakesch, one-half of the group Funkstorung, with his first solo EP on the group’s own Music Aus Strom label. Compared with Funkstorung, this music sounds a bit more minimal and fragile to me, and at times even a bit meandering. But hey, it’s experimental and it’s good for you, so stick with it! Four tracks in total, all with different flavors and textures. Side A features a remix by Boards of Canada. This is the kind of record that works well “in the mix.”
No one would have believed in the last years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s, alien beings who possessed the true secrets of the universe: the science of subharmonics, the alchemy of analog, and the recipes for rootical dub…
This mind-expanding aural documentary by Dubadelic uncovers the truth about these invaders from outer bass, featuring personal testimonials and interviews with leading experts such as the late Sun Ra. Disparate sources of information are combined and correlated to form heretofore unrealized patterns of sonic intrigue. And finally, hidden messages from these bass invaders are unveiled for all to ponder.
Bass is the place!
Drexciya: it’s not just music, it’s a mythology! Like the Saturnalia of Sun Ra, Drexciya’s aquatic electronics are perfectly integrated with theories about a sub-oceanic mutated species, the offspring of pregnant slave women who were thrown overboard with the sick and dying during ocean crossings. THE QUEST, Drexciya’s career-spanning previous release, was reported to be their last transmission from the murky depths, but happily that was not the case. NEPTUNE’S LAIR contains all-new material, every bit as unique and brilliant as their previous releases: part electro, part techno, and all Drexciyan. This is some of the most important music coming out of Detroit, period.
Half philosopher and half con artist, DJ Spooky is one of those musicians who remain interesting almost in spite of the erratic quality of their output. While I wasn’t particularly enthralled with his album FILE UNDER FUTURISM, the title track, offered up here in the album version plus two remixes from A Guy Called Gerald, was certainly the best thing on it. The (original) “Grooveprotocol Mix” is a relentless and funky beat barrage, like taking a more ordinary drum’n’bass track and puree-ing it in the musical veg-o-matic. A Guy Called Gerald offers up a more conventional drum’n’bass mix, plus an ambient mix of the track, and rounding out the EP is “Osmose” a trip-hoppy non-LP track that features an effective use of strings not unlike the more pastoral work of The Raincoats.
The “fourth member” of Medeski, Martin, and Wood has amassed a staggering amount of downtown NYC talent on his debut CD. But despite the constantly shifting lineup, it sounds as cohesive as the best Bill Laswell fusion projects. From John Medeski’s Hammond B3 workouts, to rap from the Anti-Pop Consortium, to the Eastern vibes of tabla master Karsh Kale, to go-go, trip hop, and Latin beats, the whole shebang is marveously sewn together by the textural skitting and whizzing of turntablist Logic. A truly impressive debut.
DJ Food could well be considered the “flagship artist” in the Ninja Tune roster, since half of the label’s first ten albums were released under that name. But “DJ Food” began life as more of a pun than an actual group; their JAZZ BRAKES VOLUMES 1-5 were collections of breaks and beats intended primarily for DJ’s rather than casual listeners. The DJ Food lineup was also fluid, with original members Matt Black and Jonathan More (aka Coldcut) fading in and out of the project as time permitted, eventually turning things over entirely to their cohorts Patrick Carpenter and Kevin Foakes. By their sixth release, A RECIPE FOR DISASTER, the DJ Food output had gotten too sophisticated for the background of a DJ set. This latest album is the most ambitious one yet, with beats taking a back seat to atmosphere. The first half of the album is simply stunning, featuring some wonderful collaborations with Bundy K. Brown and Ken Nordine, as well as some inspired collages featuring the cult albums HUSTLER’S CONVENTION and HOW TO SPEAK HIP. After track 7, the album starts to meander, but overall it’s as eclectic and inspired as the Ninja Tune label itself. File under postmodern urban soundtracks.
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