Music reviews from the pages of Think Magazine...CHEMICAL BROTHERS
Brothers Gonna Work it Out.
A very interesting document from the guys who go to more record stores in a year, than most go in a lifetime. All kinds of rarities are served up on five distinctive mixes from Tom and Ed. In 75 minutes you can get a taste of the twists and turns a night with the old Dust Brothers might take.
Mix 1 is a shout to soul and early house, number two fuses those house and break beats, before they break out with the Micronauts 'The Jazz'. That track is where they usually take the breaks out and slip in the acid house.
The 4th mix takes a slightly industrial turn, but is anchored with Renegade Soundwave's standard 'Thunder', and the last mix is a hodgepodge of favorites resolving in the enchanting Chem Bros remix of Spiritualized's 'I Think I'm in Love'.
It's a great way to catch up with the acid house outbreak of 88-89, and the rebirth of the breakbeat in 1994, the brothers continue to find solutions.
I Am Not a Doctor (Echo Label)
This super freaky English funk (Booty not Puff Daddy) and breakbeat duo have possibly the most grooviest ear candy that we've heard since the Morcheeba record got so many people singing to themselves.
Featuring the catchy single 'The Flipside' as an appetizer Doctor carries you on a journey through bouncy and dramatic grooves, surrounding a woman trying to portray a tortured Shirley Bassey.
The beauty of Moloko is in the abstract changes in beat, and tasteful sound effects and old synthesizers produced impeccably. It has that great energy of composer and singer that recall the great records from the Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams) and Blondie. No wonder Beauty and the Beast was such a captivating tale.
Vital Rythm Colors (Faust Records)
Local acid jazzers have grown up since the casual jam sessions at U Malého Glena started many years ago.
Lee Farber (also of Hermakouti fame) has emerged as the driving force of Plazma, recording most of Vital Rythm Colors with mainstays on bass Jay Rasta, and vocal/percussionist Ifraim Goldin.
All tolled, 15 folks have participated in this well recorded, and varied palette of musicl ideas ranging from all out jammy urban jazz, Pink Floyd sounding jams, to african drums beats, and complex arrangements featuring Burama (Hypnotix), the deceptively controlled voice of Tereza Nekudova, and of course Ifraim.
The powerful 'Afrika' which has evolved since I'd first heard it in 1996 tells a story of a personal and musical journey of the Afrikan drum, from a loose musing to a tightly wound and provacative political call for recognition.
The dangers of such adventures are sure footedly avoided by Goldin's never stooping from the documentarists vantage. Call it agit-jazz. A solid representation of the live group, and with the exception of some rare indulgent jamming, a fine debut.
HouseParty 9 Mark Grant presents the Taste of Cajual (Next Era)
This is a break out for local legends of mixed DJ records. In the past the likes of Bidlo, LaDiDa, Tvyks, and at least 10 other local spinners have had their try to make the perfect mix, and more often than not they have been tasty treats.
Mark Grant sent this mix in of laid back Chicago grooves on a lark. Unlike most other compilations from that historic city Mr. Grant stays clear of the hits and points to flipside of the cornier 'through your hands in the air' of old days, and settles in for an hour or so of understated cool mid 90's American house.
This is a mix for lounging with a cocktail, and realizing that someone you've known for a long time deserves more of your attention. You are wearing green velvet, and yes you feel up to the challenge.MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO
Actual Sounds and Voices (Play it Again Sam)
This is MBM fourth full length release and as much as I loved Subliminal Sandwich, Actual Sounds shows that they are still on the move.
Most people are familiar with Mars Needs Women, but that was just messy kids stuff compared to this. The dense electronic breakbeats are full of what seem like hundreds of samples, which is typical of MBM.
The difference here is that they've turned up the bass, and dug a little deeper in their quest to get the body to move along with all the mental stimulation. Even after 15 dense tracks, the pleasure of their found sounds and relentless pounding bend the ear towards the speakers rather than away. In fact you can turn it up and double the attraction. Fantastic.IRRESISTIBLE FORCE
Its Tomorrow Already (Ninja Tunes)
With song titles like 'Nepalese Bliss' and 'Fish Dances', we can expect something a little ambient. The title track is outrageously long and melancholy, like watching children on a merry-go-round.
If unexpected it could lead to the expectation of something happening.
The rest of the record is sparse, lovely and similarly mobile like. Bursts of synth wash over you like a breezy Mediterranean afternoon, kites fly, a voice on a radio in a language you can't understand makes it all a little more foreign.
Knowing only this one life, a little envy haunts you as you gaze down at the lovers talking on the beach, but the feeling turns reassuring, the rhythm is right. Oh my it's getting late, I better get back to the hotel. Excellent The 'The' sample in Nepalese Bliss, those Ninja folks never do you wrong.PLASTIKMAN
The (bc) I believe stands for Before Canada. Artifakts was originally intended to be the minimalist finale to a deep career in the field. Living in Detroit, the Plastikman (Richie Hawton) had only planned on a three record career.
Deportation to Canada in the middle of recording led to a change in head space and the diversion that created the wonderful Consumed LP released earlier this year. Hawton decided that he would still conclude the trilogy by releasing the five tracks bc and a few odds and ends.
The tracks themselves are varied, rough-edged and interesting, but without the typical architecture of his normally well planned cerebral assault. Skizofrenic is at once one of the most menacing of tunes he's released, but a curiosity in the end.
Like sushi, the minimal shifts in beat and momentum (which is all the Plastikman does) is an acquired taste, and lovingly prepared. You could alter your self permanently by buy this on a whim and playing it non stop for a week or so.FUTURE LOOP FOUNDATION
Conditions for Living (Planet Dog)
Rumor are, well, what they are. The Future Loop Foundation, and one of the many projects featuring the legend Micheal Dog, founder of the label, are big fans of the Czech Republic and Prague in particular.
They had a great show at Roxy, but some of us didn't get enough hype to check them out. A standout track with rolling piano and Ohm Square like back beat is actually titled 'Praha', so they might even come back.
There are some hip-hop beats with big bass lines, and some nice ambient jungle pieces here, even an acoustic guitar and voice number. Coming of age at the same time as the Orb, Dog spent much time in the ambient zone. Lots of smoke and mirrors, lots of reverb, and more ozone than all of Antarctica, damn...CYPRESS HILL
Like any pop-music genre, rap runs on formulas. But L.A.'s Cypress Hill have stretched theirs beyond any reasonable expectation.
For more than seven years and four albums, they've managed to enjoy wild success without ever having to reinvent themselves or tweak their recipe at all.
Cracking into the same white, alternative crowd that the Beastie Boys are popular with, the group has continued to give these kids what they apparently want: namely, songs about the police, gangsta-style tracks that double as braggadocio and last, but not least, odes to pot, which Hill members claim to consume vast quantities of.
Their three previous albums have all gone gold or platinum, yet the group has never been considered in the same vein of "hip-pop" as Puffy or Will Smith.
DJ Muggs deserves a good deal of the credit for the group's appeal. Though the Wu-Tang's RZA is usually thought of as the master of dirty, dusty grooves, Muggs was pumping out grimy, bass-heavy beats years before RZA gained any notoriety.
Muggs' productions are distinctively funky yet fairly simple in nature. He excels in finding thick, rolling baselines and then adds drum tracks dragged through the sonic dirt of the SP1200 sampler (the sampler of choice for early hip-hop producers). The results are songs that still crackle with the static of vinyl records, resulting in a deliciously dark sound that captures the urban underbelly of a decaying Los Angeles.
When Muggs fires these tracks up, there's a frantic, rushed feel to them, raw aural adrenaline that pumps across the speakers. Dropped into a slow tempo-ed groove, songs like "Tequila Sunrise" mimic the effects of a dope high, altering reality like paranoia-inducing mood swings.
But 17 songs is simply too long. Sure, there are some great-sounding songs, but the lesser filler is made all the more mediocre by the lack of musical diversity on the album. The same goes for doing the same kinds of lyrics to death, and B-Real and Sen Dog can't seem to invent any concepts that they haven't already played with dozens of times before.
The album starts with "Through the Eye of the Pig," which copies the same anti-police vibe that the group kicked off with its first hit, "How I Could Just Kill A Man" (on Cypress Hill's self-titled first album).
Great urban politics for certain, but what's new, docs? Simply said - no new surprises here, though the hypnotic beat of "High Times'" was worth at least one listen through. But what did you expect from Cypress Hill?
No matter how down on them you get, they still turn out the kinds of records that at least half a million people want to buy. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
The Don (Warner)
It's speed garage season so I guess it doesn't surprise me that so many artists are going for the sound. 187 Lockdown joins the S.G. club with "Gunman". It's a hypnotic beat, sexy and funky.
Vocals are limited and used to accent rather than for emotion. The "Nu Birth" remix (my fave) goes into a jazz twist with synth sax and piano - still maintaining a chill to be true to the genre. Stays incredibly close to being cheese without insulting you.
The Natural Born Chillers lend a hand in remixing the single, indulging within the familiar drum & bass camp. 187 Lockdown covers all credible bases and does it well.FATBOY SLIM
You've Come a Long Way Baby (Astralwerks/Virgin/EMI)
Former Housemartins and Beats International member Norman Cook continues to set vintage funk and soul samples to jumpy, new-school beats on his second album under the Fatboy Slim alias.
Cook cut-and-paste, big-beat contemporaries (i.e. Propellerheads, Chemical Brothers) by using natural, organic sounds and making sure the musical hooks are never buried in his aural collages.
Buoyed by the mega-hit 'Rockafeller Skank' (right about now, funk soul brother), You've Come A Long Way Baby is guaranteed to pack any dance floor, yet it's also musical enough to be enjoyed sitting down.A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
The Love Movement (Jive/RCA)
"Looking more like a Clinique product than a rap album (at least from the cover), the Tribe's swan song is going to be looked at as all kinds of things - a statement, a milestone, a historical document.
But it's going to be awfully hard to look at The Love Movement as a record. It's too loaded, and our minds are a little clouded: How could Quest call it a day?
Maybe they're smart enough to choose burning out over fading away, but if The Love Movement's any indication, they're beating the slump that they seemed to be mired in during the recording of their previous record, Beats, Rhymes and Life.
It was too even, too flat, as if the fun had been sucked out of Q-Tip, Phife and Ali. Happily, at least some of the vitality that drove Midnight Marauders - surely one of the most unassuming hip-hop masterpieces - must have just skipped a generation. Quest's practically trademarked mid-tempo groove, 'Love Moment' is consistently high-spirited, pretty unusual for a breakup album.
A thick, sine-wave bass drives most of the record (check, especially, "Hot 4 U" and "Against the World"), the sound they've leaned on for three albums and a purer but less exciting sound than the fuzzy, intense bass that Ron Carter put down for The Low End Theory.
Filling out the space are clipped, thin keyboard and guitar lines and insistent (but, again, thinly sliced) beats. It sounds like a recipe for failure, but it's a flavor; all the pieces slide into place neatly, precisely - with a definite, insistent thump. It may not - as "the lone ranger" suggests before bonus track "Money Maker" - "rectify music from its rectalness," but Quest probably won't ever make a world-changing album again.
You only get one or two, after all. And maybe that's what's driving Quest to call it a day. With The Low End Theory, they really fired a shot heard 'round the world; more than just being of obscenely high quality, that record changed music. And maybe Midnight Marauders did, too.
But revolutions require new voices, and try as they might, Quest are now familiar old friends.MANIC STREET PREACHERS
Tell Me Your Truth (Sony)
Although I'm not a big fan, I can understand how they are appreciated in the same way as a Las Vegas lounge singer can make you sentimental for a time you've never experienced.
So it's the British equivalent to the skate punk ska revival in the states. There's a lot of catching up to do for kids today, but for someone who heard all these tunes played by others, it's like going backwards and forwards in time at the same moment.
It sounds like the last 30 years in pop have been bundled up and the best bits decanted to put this together. It's impossible to say where it's coming from, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's...it's none and all of these at the same time.DIVINE COMEDY
Fin De Siecle (Sony)
Enjoyable, even if overtly British in character, Neil Hannon's song writing has influence in the humor of Monty Python, big on drama and gravitating towards the absurd.
The high street observations about infidelity on Generation Sex, and the ode to escapism Sweden with its walls of strings and raspy baritone are highlights.
Neil's vocal similarity to Jim Morrison is recognizable, and potentially distraction at first, but one gets over it.
The tracks toward the end are some serious ballads, if you like it at first, it will grow. Not for recycling.THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION
Singer and guitarist John Spencer's resplendent style has always been the X-factor with his Blues Explosion, adding character to the soul-steeped rock and roll the trio creates. On Acme, his persona goes a long way toward making this one of the craftiest (and funkiest) JSBE albums in some time, equal parts murky Southern rock and near-comic gallantry.
If only the songs were the equal of the execution. Spencer is at his most magnetic as a frontman when he plays the indignant soul belter. He croons, shouts, begs, and wails all over Acme - "Do You Wanna Get Heavy?" runs the gamut in a single song, no less-coming off as a cross between a Southern Baptist preacher and a hound-dog.
It's all sweet and tangy, gritty and funky, right down to the way the trio's sound is sparingly mixed. Spencer delivers "Magical Colors" in a laid-back vocal style that's so tongue-in-cheek, it actually sounds sincere.
Ironically, with its samples and dirty drum break, the backing track for "Talk About the Blues" is hip-hop inspired-a direct influence of the Automator (who produced Dr. Octagon's acclaimed debut) behind the mixing boards.
His touch is subtle, felt in the way he balances a hip-hop layering aesthetic with the trio's need to sound raw. What they may lack in compositional savvy, Spencer and company make up for in flair-something rock music has lacked in recent times. Acme makes a persuasive argument that, sometimes, style alone can get you through when substance falls short.VARIOUS ARTISTS
OCU Rec. 2 (Mr. Cucumber)
U.F.Off: The Best of the Orb (Island)
The second of the Živel magazine compilations is way more unified than the first, in many ways it functions as way to get your Ohm Square fix between recordings.
Their fingerprints are all over this (at least 7 tracks), it great to hear them collaborate with different people, to get an idea how they fit together collectively.
Shame is there aren't many if any copies left out there, if you find it pay any price. So I won't go on and on about it (It's great!) The Orb release is a nice way to touch base with those memories of Jelení příkop.
Including full length version of the pastiche they put together in concert, perhaps it is perfect for reconstructing the high you enjoyed that night. Little Fluffy Clouds indeed!
The Lighthouse compilation is well chosen, and set to push a few boundaries with Darren Price and Josh Wink, as well as some tracks to wag your tail to (Rockefella Skank, and Rude Boy Rock from Fatboy Slim and Lionrock respectively). Getting all three might help remind you of the year it was.GROOVERIDER
Mysteries of Funk (Sony)
Mysteries of Funk is an astonishingly accomplished and daring debut album that succeeds in evoking feelings of such legendary black music innovators as Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
The jungle legend and his partner in crime Optical, pull back on the brutal hard step jungle they are known for to showcase vocalists Roya Arab, and Sophie Barker.
Not that its not dark, moody, and punishing, it is, but you might be surprised how much space is left over. Years in the making, and it shows. A headbanger.LIVE AND RARE
Basic 12" (F Comm)
Live and Rare is an impressive document of the 100th release for groundbreaking French dance label, F Communications. The name tips off what you'll find on this double CD.
Even if the names Frederic Galliano, Jori Hulkkonen, or Laurent Gaurnier are not exactly household names they have been defining a style of house that is distinct, and varied.
The wild and lush jazz experiments of Galliano, are not out of place next pounding pulse of Hulkkonen's 3rd line. The first disc is a little uneven, the salsa mix sticking its gaudy head out, but finishes strong.
The second disc is a keeper, the live mixes really giving the mix something extra. The wicked live version of 'Crying 202' from Chaotik Ramses, captures perfectly the intelligence behind much of the F Comm minimalism.
Swans are not out of place in your living room, or pretension can be beautiful.
The Nova Nova single shows three sides to the duos music for moderns. DjGG is a trance house gathering of clouds, See is a lovely quiet night under the stars, and Elisa is like sitting on a porch in the rain.