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Music Reviews

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – “Freedom Jazz Dance ” – [Delmark]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is the brainchild of AACM member Kahil El ‘Zabar, who has provided the rhythmic foundation for a revolving cast of band members since the group’s inception in the mid-70’s. This time out the lineup includes trombonist Joseph Bowie (brother of Lester and founder of Defunkt), saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, and guitarist Fareed Haque: an exemplary group of jazz musicians, creating soulful, spiritual music. I can never get tired of the funky, Eddie Harris-penned title track. Guitarist Haque swings mightily on “Mama’s House,” and the voice-and-percussion treatment on “This Little Light of Mine” really shines. (Ouch.) Seriously, this is great stuff.

Dub Funk Association, the – “Sounds of the Heavyweight ” – [Tanty Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Even though this group of dubsters uses the “F” word in their name, this is some of the rootsiest dub I’ve heard in the 90’s, in direct lineage from King Tubby, Lee Perry, and the like. (A notable exception is Track 6, an exercise in restrained junglism.) The Dub Funk Association is actually one man, Kelvin Richards, and however many friends he can pull into the studio on a given day. For this particular release, his fifth full-length album, he gets some help from Russell Brown (The Disciples) and Part 2 (UK hip-hopper), among others. Deep, throbbing bass… echoey drums…snatches of vocals and horn stabs…you know what to expect. Heavyweight sounds, indeed.

Dubadelic – “Bass Invaders ” – [Wordsound Recordings]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

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 – “Neptune’s Lair ” – [Tresor]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

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.

Douglas, Dave – “Magic Triangle ” – [Arabesque Recordings]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Jazz

One of the busiest trumpeteers in modern jazz, Dave Douglas has recorded with everyone from Braxton to Zorn, and released several albums under his own name with various instrumental configurations. This time it’s a quartet, featuring Douglas on trumpet, Chris Potter on tenor sax, James Genus on bass, and Ben Perowsky on drums. The result is a melodically sophisticated but perhaps too polite collection of nine original Douglas compositions, ranging from the swingin to the moody and meditative. On “Padded Cell” the band plays a little more freely and this, for me, was the most interesting track.

Dr. Alimantado – “Kings Bread ” – [I.S.D.A.]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

Jamaican deejay Dr. Alimantado is primarily known for his deejay toasting and for his Lee Perry-inspired dub productions from the mid- 70’s. Unfortunately, this 1979 album features neither. (Check out BEST DRESSED CHICKEN IN TOWN for the “classic” Dr. Alimantado sound.) What this album does feature, however, is some fine roots reggae vocals by the good doctor, along with instrumental accompaniment from some of Jamaica’s finest, including members of the Revolutionaries, Roots Radics, etc. Until the next Pressure Sounds or Blood & Fire reissue, this’ll do just fine.

Dj Spooky Vs. Freight Elevator – “Futurism Ep ” – [Caipirinha]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

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.

Dj Logic – “Project Logic ” – [Ropeadope Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

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.

Code 4109 [coll] – [Red Ink]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Hip Hop

DJ Krush drops another musical bomb, this time in the form of a DJ mix CD. But when you’re one of the world’s foremost turntablists, you don’t just crank out any old collection of tunes. No, this is an honest-to-god “composition,” blending elements of jazz, pop, and hip hop into a virtually seamless whole that retains the familiar “blunted beat” sound Krush is known for. A few previous Krush cuts show up here, along with some recognizable vocals from Beats International and Esthero. But mostly the source material is unfamiliar, and sounds as fresh as anything Krush has previously come up with. Dope, dope, dope!

Dj Food – “Kaleidoscope ” – [Ninja Tune]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

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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