Obecní dům, the Art Nouveau gem of Prague Decorative art often fails to get respect. Pleasing to the eye but lacking substance, it's critics call it fancy, overstylized drivel, or worse of all, a bourgeois self-promotion. ...

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Ohmophonica (Next Era)

The release gets in just under the wire. With understatement and a balance between personality and composition, which could be our gift to the over-commodified aural arts, Ohmophonica pushes the boundaries of soul, drum n bass, electronica and trip-hop while allowing an elegance to emerge which is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Life in Prague is a flow between the chaotic insistent rhythm of the cobble stones and cobble people, with subtle shifts of perception into unspeakable moments of beauty and magic.

This is that soundtrack.

No stone is left unturned, and not a bum note in the mix. Like a classic this record will find you, if you don't find it. Worth inviting strangers to your house for, or just send a few CD's to those poor souls abroad forced to suck down Janet Jackson videos every fifteen minutes. Try not to steal it! - Keith Kirchner

Living in Liquid (Sony Music)

The first release by Prague's own Liquid Harmony reflects all the work they've put in over the last year. From the first puff, reminiscent of the beginning of Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' and into the psychedelic pulse of Get Down, we hear inventive sampling, and a steady flow of funky house beats. It's a little mellowed compared to the live show, more suited for the odd magic carpet ride.

The interplay between the vocals, guitar, and horns creates sweet human textures through the sea of samples, including that funny clicking your telephone makes when its trying to dial. The beginnings of something special, the live show is awesome. Also check the Disco Satisfaction single for some excellent reworking of the hit single, and to get a feel for their experimental innovation. - Keith Kirchner

99 Ripgroove (Satellite Recordings)

Speed garage eh? Sounds more like a short stay car-park than the latest sound to be pounding out of black BMWs and record shops in the more fashionable quarters of London.

'Ripgroove' is one of the tunes that first brought the genre to the public consciousness with time-stretch vocals and a funky-as-fuck booming bass-line á la jungle over a sharp 4/4 house rhythm, this is a phat-as-u-like beast of a tune that is as infectious as a dose of the clap at a swingers convention.

This is likely to be especially popular with those who moan that they like drum n' bass but think it is too fast to dance to, as the genre incorporates the bad-assed attitude and bass driven dance floor decimation of jungle at the more dance orientated speed of garage. - Chris Sadler

The Psycho Realm (Ruffhouse/Sony)

The new project of former Cypress Hill MC B-Real shows him breaking new ground with a producer named Jacken. Free from the pressures to top the last Cypress Hill chronicle, he sets the controls for the heart of his paranoia.

"I feel the universe functioning perfectly, but I am perfectly locked inside myself."

The grooves are icy and slow, the tones like the chiming of a grandfather clock, or a sinister children's piano. At times there's a real Wu-Tang feel to it, but the style of rapping in unmistakably LA, unmistakable 'the day after'. His best work in years. - Keith Kirchner

'Wake the Town and Dub the People' (Sony)

The cutting edge series of English dub/clubsters dishes out the fattest selection of beats to bounce to yet.

You can see the evolution of beat, you can feel the roots dug in deep, and you can hear the ground shifting below your feet. If you checked out Rootsman at the Roxy then you know a little about the directions here.

My favorite track on the disc, 'Fuck Dub' by Tosca is a creamy delicious synth mix, with a bruising snare fill over the steady pounding kick. Your body seems to hardly be moving at all, but your insides are doing cartwheels. To the core! - Keith Kirchner

Beyond and Back 'The Anthology' (Warner/Electra)

Southern Cali in the early 80s was the end of a certain kinda dreamin'. Protection of soul, and folks who were 'real', were the equivalent of gold at the height of the 'me' decade. Out of this moral decline rose a generation of punk/poets to document the seedy romantic underbelly of fantastic LA.

X were produced by Ray Manzarek of The Doors, and fronted by the married duo of John Doe and Exene Cervenka, and grounded on the razor sharp rockabilly sensibility of guitarist Billy Zoom, and drummer DJ Bonebreak.

For the uninitiated this 120-minutes of aural sunshine is even cheaper than a plane ticket to LA, and for fans there are plenty of fresh tracks to balance the memories. - Keith Kirchner

6000 Boom! Boom! Boom! (Play It Again Sam/Mute)

The throne of noisy independent rock is still firmly entrenched in the USA. I don't know if the rest of the world's just too slick, but the guitar is still alive and well in the 'empire'. Some of the 3 Boom! record will remind you of her former mates The Breeders, but there is more aggression, and textural experimentation here.

It's not easy to figure out what the deal is lyrically, but she seems to be pissed off that people are such chicken shits, and basically rockin' the good battle against all things neurotic.

A remarkable single note guitar solo on a song called 'Drum Solo' takes me back to my old self destructive haunts, but there was a reason for all that. - Keith Kirchner

New Forms (Talkin' Loud/Mercury)

It's pretty dope. I mean if they can pull this shit off live, you may just levitate. It's drum and bass, but with this kinetic live groove. This will most likely be the only incarnation of this line up, but will probably launch a few careers including the lipstick and licorice sweetness of a singer named Onalee.

If you dig Massive Attack and wish there was more live in your dance music check out Roni Size, This album deserved its praise, so make your local record store get this 2-CD set. - Keith Kirchner

We'll Never Stop Living This Way (BMG)

Westbam put on such a rocking show at Underground ON Strike II, I didn't figure he was using some of his own records in the mix.

His music is an electrified techno funk that gets under your skin, even as you are shaking your head saying this is just too minimal to be this funky.

It owes tons to Afrika Bambatta, Kraftwerk, and James Brown. I don't know how it works but it does, with verve. The cover is truly silly. - Keith Kirchner

Illumination (Domino/Mute)

Glasgow's Pastels have been writing groovy little jangly pop ditties for more than a decade now.

Stephen Pastel writes the oblique kind of lyrics cult form around, and light arrangement are alot like the oldest Aztec Camera.

Loads better than the last Prefab Sprout LP, as you can at least feel the human hands on the guitar strings. We all need music to take walks with, explore the confusion. - Keith Kirchner

Techno Energy 4 (Next Era)

Number 4 in the outstanding Techno Energy series features the dementia of Radost resident and Merchant of Grooves DJ Kristian.

Sometimes it seems like you can tell a DJ who is stuck in his genre from one that understands the musicality in the grooves, using the percussion to highlight what goes on in the high end.

Bidlo likes to work that angle, and Kristian is very successful in showing you the dynamics of each record. Carl Cox 'Yumm Yumm', Slam's 'Dark Forces', and Speedy J's 'Pannik' hit with N-R-G Forces. The best one yet, stay tuned. - Keith Kirchner

Vol. 1 'The Underground…' (Satellite/BMG)

The sound that's tearing up the UK just now is a hybrid of funky jungle-like basslines, and housey beats, overlaid with funked out layers of effected vocals, basically used as another instrument.

The seminal Speed Garage track Ripgroove by Double 99 uses a combo of Deep Forest and ragga vocals, most of the tracks seem to be informed by one kind of 'world music' or another.

Generally pretty happy upbeat dress up kinda stuff that sounds better the more dubbed out it gets. It would be nice at 4 or so in the morning, me thinks. - Keith Kirchner

Trosky (Sony Music)

Big fat beats, heavy basslines, and a little Slovakian style hip-hop displacement. The cadence reminds me of MC Solaar but the delivery has a heaviness that says where it comes from. Jazz Con Bazz had a hand in the production, and remixes a few of the tracks.

Can someone help me translate Slovak slang!

Another chapter in the emerging CR/SR rap scene. A big step forward. Checked them out with Jazz Con Bazz at the Roxy on that big 'ol sound system, amazing! - Keith Kirchner

Some Girls Wander By Mistake (Warner Music)

This is a compilation of The Sisters' at their best from 1980 to 1983.

The tunes range from the trance-like dreamscape quality of the instrumental 'Phantom' to the straight forward in your face rock-n-roll exhibited in '1969'.

Lethargic drum machine tracks, minor arpeggios, dark synth lines and lyrics and the repetitive bass lines give this album an overall melancholic (but not an infinite sadness) kind of feel, but wasn't that what they were trying to do anyway? - Rob Young

Smack My Bitch Up (XL Recordings)

The CD is spinning. My foot is stomping. My fingers are moving over the keys to the break beat. Yes it's another techno-rockin'-stompin'-percussive onslaught from the kings of commercial techno.

It seems the Prodigy have once again succeeded in finding beats that encompass and take over the mind and body leaving nothing left to do but pound along to them.

The controversial title song, Smack My Bitch Up, is accompanied by two others and a remix of Smack... by DJ Hype. Hey, and if you thought breakdancing was dead, check out the album cover... a snapshot from the 1996 UK Breakdancing Championships! - Rob Young

The Pioneers Of House Music - Chicago Reunion (Planet Alfa)

In order to be a success, you must either be first, best, or most different, Jessie was the former. You have probably heard some of the tracks on this two CD set chronicling the birth of the music called house.

Legends like Frankie Knuckles, Tyree Cooper, Marshall Jefferson, and of course Jessie Saunders show you how they grooved out the folks in the 80's with their sexified funk, and souled out vocals.

These early jams were only available in certain circles and are only just now beginning to receive their due with new clubbers. A chance to catch up on a lot of history in one go. Yes, Americans do have history. - Keith Kirchner

Živel Compilation (Tunel)

They are calling from all the mountaintops now. This excellent compilation from an excellent magazine sheds light in new corners of the scene. This flowing mix includes new local acts you might not know, as well as Načeva, Ohm Square (see the video of their contribution below), The Eggg, Hypnotix, Mare Nigrum, and Lazlo Legezer (DJ Gus). The first five tracks are mixed drum and bass with jungle leading into a remarkably clubby version of Hypnotix 'Her Last Will', and the ever dark Mare Nigrum song, remixed by Liquid A and the Ohmers. It makes me long for an actual chillout room sometimes, but I reckon the homespace has got it in spades. Oh yeah, the Načeva song is also remixed by Gus and absolutely brilliant. Hats off to Živel! - Keith Kirchner

>Sound Bites

ECHOBELLY Lustra (Sony Music)
An excellent brit-pop LP. The formula is simple, good vocals, catchy hooks, and touching uplifting lyrics. ***
DEEP SWEDEN Maiden Prague (Rachot)
Finally one of our better outfits is captured, the songs are strong, but the vocals are too high in the mix. **
The ultimate driving album. These guys always rocked, and were rarely overplayed. Celebrate the end of an era with this CD and a bottle of Ballantine's Gold. ****
JANE'S ADDICTION Kettle Whistle (Warner Bros.)
The 4 new tracks bring the most interest, they go 3 for four with one classic, of course you love the rest. ***
Hard as heck Drum n' Bass with big horn flourishes, and some Cab Voltaire experimental grooves. If you're in that mood only this will satisfy it. ***

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