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.
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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.
One-time Communist and Black Panther (and lifelong activist) Angela Davis delivered this compelling lecture at Colorado College in 1997. Her subject is the escalating prison population and the increasing trend toward a punishment-based prison system rather than rehabilitation-based systems. Having been on both sides of the bars, Davis is eminently qualified for the subject. Over the course of this 54-minute lecture, she touches on many other topics, such as the War on Drugs, working conditions in third world shoe factories, and more. A thoughtful, reasoned argument from one of our leading liberal thinkers.
It seems that Console’s Martin Gretschmann has always had a sweet tooth for electronic pop. While his first album resided in a landscape that recalled the modern electro-pop sounds of Mouse on Mars, this second album reaches back towards 80’s pioneers such as Orchestral Maneouvers, Kraftwerk, and the Human League. It’s catchy, fun, and full of surprises, retro but modern at the same time.
The Bay Area’s own version of Fat Cat returns with this fine EP from San Franciscan Kit Clayton. Seven tracks, ranging from minimal dub (a la Pole, Chain Reaction, etc.) to Detroit-style tech-house (think Jeff Mills, Rob Hood) to totally experimental soundscapes. Previous Drop Beat releases have all pushed beyond the restrictions of genre and this one is no exception.
For their third album release, Jason Swinscoe’s Cinematic Orchestra have progressed from creating their own imaginary movie soundtracks to creating the soundtrack for a real film. The film in question is Dziga Vertov’s silent Soviet masterpiece, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA. It’s hard to believe that a film from 1929 incorporates the kinds of techniques and tricks we normally associate with modern-day music videos, like rapid-fire editing, repetition, animation, double exposures, split-screens, freeze-frames, slow motion sequences, and more. Yet it’s all there, and that makes the Vertov film a particularly inviting one to re-score. Swinscoe’s six-piece orchestra (plus string section) have done a fantastic job, with an all-instrumental soundtrack that deftly combines jazz and classical elements with trip hop beats, electronic noodlings, and more. Be sure to check out the 9-minute downtempo epic, “The Awakening of a Woman” as well as the playful and upbeat instrumental cover of the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s “Theme de Yoyo”.
A 1996 release from the ever-intriguing Sabotage label out of Austria. This six-track electro EP is more beat-heavy than bleep-heavy. “Device A” opens the circuit at a propulsive, trancey tempo, while “Device B” delays the signal to a more percolating groove. The standout component, though, is “Device F,” which combines knob-twiddly synths with sitar and some crunchy, John Bonham-inspired beats.
This EP of tracks from 1995 was a refreshing reminder to me of what “electronic listening music” was all about in the early 90’s: exploration and a sense of wonder. Before there was much of a “scene” to compare their work with or against, artists like The Black Dog were inventing a new musical language. And compared to much of today’s electronica, this sounds practically ambient. The tracks move at their own pace, stopping and restarting, or shifting rhythmic gears altogether, but always progressing, never redundant. There is some achingly beautiful music on here; thanks to Warp for giving us an opportunity to hear it after all this time.
Ethno-jazz fusion par excellence! Former Axiom label manager Peter Wetherbee co-produces and plays hand drums on this massive double-CD of live performances at New York City’s Bell Cafe. Tablas, digeridoos, and other (more obscure) ethnic instruments collide with electric guitars in a psychedelic world-music jam session, sounding something like a more improvised version of Material’s HALLUCINATION ENGINE. A dub sensibility is evident in the production, as vocals fade in and out, and bass and drums each take their turn in the spotlight. This is an exotic trip that is definitely worth taking…already firmly ensconced in my Top Ten for 1998.
As bands go, you can’t get much more basic than this: a bass player and a singer. That’s all. And that’s all you need, for this is the sound of Basque: spacious yet intimate, dramatic yet honest, simple yet unique. Aiming somewhere between the bluesier avenues of Portishead and the gothic sounds of Dead Can Dance, this Brooklyn duo creates a mystical blend of pop that’s totally compelling from start to finish. Music for candlelight and incense; a powerfully simple debut that’s going to be hard to improve on for future releases.
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