Music reviews from the pages of Think Magazine...
Hello Nasty (Grand Royal)
The heavily anticipated fifth major offering from the BBs is a superbly contoured hip-hop record. With 22 tracks on 1 disc, Hello Nasty delivers the beats, especially in light of the recent hip-hop trend of releasing double-CDs of middling tracks (see Wu-Tang, Tupac).
Their last record, Ill Communication, hit huge in '94 on the back of Sabotage and Root Down, and Hell Nasty was similarly well recieved.
Overall, the album flows well, uptempo with loads of old school lyrics and totally lacking in that pretentiousness that modern hip-hop seems to be afflicted with. DJ Mix Master Mike, from the Invisible Scratch Pickles, is all over this album. Throwing out soaring, tripped out samples, this fourth force compliments the trio's vocals and really shines when Hello Nasty blasts through the headphones.
Sure, the album comes unstuck a few times, but with 22 tracks, that is easily forgivable. It's all there, but don't just take my word for it, hit the Beasties webpage (beastieboys.com) and sample the few tracks offered there for yourself. - Jay King
ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION
Rafi's Revenge (ffrr)
The conventional wisdom was, that no one would be interested in an Asian dub group preaching political change. What this newly-remixed version of'Rafi's Revenge (which no one would pick up last year) reveals is that the explicitly political dub'n'bass punk assault of ADF owes more to a lineage snaking back through Public Enemy, The Clash and the MC5, rather than to any farcical and preconceived notion of Asian or world music.
What's more, while the political content of ADF is patently a vital and inseparable part of what they do, it's certainly not the first thing that hits you about this album. What strikes you the first time you hear this record is the sheer speed and sound of it. Its strength is the way it matches the primal rush of a punk or rockabilly record.
Exploding dubquake basslines coupled with bursts of chiming guitar distortion combine to make 'Naxalite', 'Buzzin'' and the furious sloganeering of 'Free Satpal Ram' among some of the most exciting music to have been released this year. Energize yourself! - Keith Kirchner
In the four years since Massive Attack's last album, Protection, the"trip-hop" phenomenon they've spawned (but aren't at all limited to) has gone through the inevitable cycle of media infatuation and fatigue typical of all such trends, but remains the driving force of 90s popular music.
And now Mezzanine, which, will no doubt be seen as a landmark album, both a consolidation of past gains and a signpost toward future developments. The most immediately noticeable difference with Mezzanine lies in its visceral, live feel, as contrasted with the dryer studio sheen of Protection.
The band's inherent dub, reggae and rock influences are pushed to the forefront, with woofer-blowing basslines, choppy guitar riffs and slamming drums taking Mezzanine further on up and out.
"Angel," the album's ominous opening track, is a case in point: while continuity is provided by the voice of permanent MA guest vocalist (and reggae kingpin in his own right) Horace Andy, here he has to fight to stay afloat as the slowly-building music finally hits a crunching crescendo and threatens to overwhelm him, finally easing off in what can only be termed a musical draw in which the listener is the winner.
A seething brand of tension lurks throughout Mezzanine, perhaps stemming from the fact that the band was going through some heavy, post-Tricky changes during the album's recording. The inclusion of alt-rock goddess and Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser, who recently moved to Bristol, is a natural development of the scene. Fraser's trademark Celtic cooing on the new single, "Teardrop," is typically alluring, and balance the sneer of Andy's tracks.
The wonder of Mezzanine - and of Massive Attack in general - thus lies in the inspired form of eclectic collaboration through which the core group expresses itself, somehow never losing its identity. Massive Attack have returned to stake out a lofty vantage point from which to survey the competition below. If this is the band's rockiest, most accessible album to date, it's also their best, and that's a "tricky" combination that few musical outfits ever pull off. Mezzanine is not only one of the top albums of the year, it's may be one of the finest of the entire decade. - Johnny Walker
He Got Game (Def Jam)
In 1987, it was the end of the world as we knew it, and Chuck D wasn't in love. The good news is that some 10 years later it's still the end of the world as we know it, and Chuck D's still not in love.
On He Got Game, Public Enemy's sixth album and their strongest effort since Fear of a Black Planet (1990), the group is still (often rightfully) disgruntled with the status quo.
They continue their crusade against the usual assortment of "devils," corporations and deceivers, fusing their message into a rap opera of sorts that turns an analytical eye toward the state of the union in the worlds of basketball and hip-hop. Chuck D takes on the players and the playees of basketball and hip-hop early and often on He Got Game, never dumbing down his commentary, using the dull side of his lyrical blade or holding back on how he really feels.
For example, the album's first track, "Resurrection," outlines the importance of the group's comeback by saying that PE is engaging in "a battle for your mind like Israel and Palestine" and telling listeners that their return is "good news in some fucking hard-ass times/No more disses/repeated hook lines and choruses."
And when Chuck spits out "white man's burden be a black man's dream" in the scorchingly-hot "Go Cat Go," he's bound to send a hip-hop nation of lyrical analysts back to the history books to see what he's so pissed about.
The Bomb Squad have had years of influences since the last release, and the result is a new sound for the group which sways from the acid-rock grunge of "Is Your God A Dog" to the excellent, Wu-flavored funk of "Unstoppable," a track that features a remarkably subdued, yet still effective, appearance by KRS-One.
Many of the songs here are a lot slower-paced than we are accustomed to hearing from PE, but the slow-burning anger on such songs as "Game Face" and "Politics of the Sneaker Pimps" more than makes up for it.
There is no
song here that threatens to blast off into the stratosphere like such PE
classics as "Night Of The Living Baseheads," "Bring The Noise," "Fight The
Power" and "Can't Truss It," and that's the only thing that keeps this offerring from exploding. - Randy Reiss
Consumed is the first release by legendary Detroit minimalist Richie Hawtin in four years. As usual he fills in the entire musical space with what seems like no effort at all.
Relative to past angst ridden work, this is a drastic departure away from the brutal industrial, and towards a more neighbor friendly, plant growing form of experimentation.
You don't have to hold your breathe like before, because the dementia is served up in a catheter this time. A decade ago it would have been called pretentious, now it's not because the machines have got soul. Here's to future days. - Keith Kirchner
Permutation (Ninja Tunes)
Brazillian born-European raised Tobin creates ambient Drum and Bass that are informed by Samba and Bossanova rhythms, and broken up with lush melodic interludes that leave traces of the slow building wall of noise that just had control of your wandering mind, like ripples on the surface of an Amazonian pond (of course under the shadows of a rainbow painted Nuclear Power Plant).
It's not really that sinister, but the rawness will creep up on you, tap you on the shoulder unexpectedly, and then just say "Hi!" - Keith Kirchner
Sound Museum (East West)
The former Dee-lite producer is still trying to cover all the bases at once. Trying to fuse house and US style urban soul is extremely ambitious, and deserves credit, even if both forms suffer for the treatment.
The lyrics are weak, and the backbeat subtracts from the house energy. If you can find 'Museum' in a two disc package with 'Stupid Fresh,' you'll be a happier camper.
The variety of the remixes is almost equal to his solid debut. The aggressiveness of the Dream Team and Krust balance best Tei's desire to find happy mediums, at all costs (and for all profits). - Keith Kirchner
Espaces Baroques (F Com)
Acid Jazz was the real precursor for what is now called Trip-hop, Frenchman Galliano brings the jazz back the fore front.
These mostly emsemble pieces have touches of studio accents on mostly acoustic sample loops that spin like mobiles, or slither along like trams resting from station to station.
The 23 minute jazz number is complex and there's nothing but confusion if you try to isolate live from tape. Solid chill out and a nice addition to your Gallic library. - Keith Kirchner
A Grand Love Story (EastWest)
This Groovy record, also from France, is finally being released here after 6 months of international acclaim.
An art for being retro or nostalgic, without boring us with kitsch, marks the difference between US and European vinyl mining these days.
New ways to look at alot of familiar grooves, mostly from the late 60's and early 70's, mostly injected with a trip hop beat, and a little psychadelica. Even a jaunty deconstruction of the Love (60's super hippies) classic 'Alone Again So' comes down on the right side of schmaltz.
Production sharp! - Keith Kirchner
House Party 8 (Next Era)
Prague's popular and often wildy eclectic DJ OO Bidlo was tapped for the latest installment of the ever improving locally produced House Party series. Without a crowd in front of him, he opens up slow and a little dark, before letting loose over a Danny Tenaglia set up perfectly by the muscular 'Tweakin'. By rides end we feel like we've actually been to a techno party, hmmm. A great improvement over his last forgettable release, and just a hint of his live explosiveness. - Keith Kirchner
Strong Scream For Quality (Sony)
A sampling of Belgium club music mixed by some dudes named jos and charles schillings.
They love vocal house and garage in this part of the world and although it can be a bit cloying at times, the selection here is fairly restrained.
Contains some classics like Basement Jaxx, Plastic Avengers amazing timestrech vocals, and Mulu.
Waffle Music for sappy people, yet so sweet. - Keith Kirchner
LO FIDELITY ALL STARS
How to Operate with a Blown Mind (Skint)
Probably the weakest I've heard on the UK's leading Big Beat label.
It seems a bit early for early 90's retro, alla Shaman and Stone Roses with more electronics and even triter spoken monologues full of unneccesary expletives.
High tech for teens. - Keith Kirchner
Nightbus Electronic Beats And Breaks From London (Cooking)
Sampler of 5 acts featuring Cooking's unique blend of noisy high end, sparse basslines, and plastic production.
Uneven, several tracks don't really lead anywhere, but with some gems floating to the surface.
Keep an eye on Parker, and Aggressive Beggars for their murder sountracks. - Keith Kirchner
End Hits (Dischord)
The last real North American punk band, Fugazi have avoided becoming an anachronism by expanding the limits of the genre.
Without engaging in obvious 'soloing' and posturing, a thoughtfulness, tension, and precision allows the songs to evolve in unexpected but interesting ways. On this, thier sixth album, they continue to explore noise and distortion, Sonic Youth style, but always in complete control.
A punk band (never charges more than $5 for a cocert, any where in the world), but one who's lyrics while political, remain oblique, and who don't shy from the odd 'pretty' chord progression, before screaming in your ear again. - Keith Kirchner
Sing Sing,1984-1994 (SFRI)
This noisy and obnoxious retrospective a relatively unknown group remarkable for the groups it spawned (John Spencer Blues Explosion), and for it's freinds (Pussy Galore, Bongwater) is to be avoided by all fans of Celine Dion.
It seems like they would record anything at all, as long as it was under 3 minutes. If you want to take a trip back to the late eighties punk underground, this is either way ahead of it's time, or barely music at all.
Demetia and destruction of the urban blues. - Keith Kirchner
Perfect Night live in London (Warner)
Just Lou with his guitar, still inspired and raw 30 years after fronting the legendary Velvet Underground.
Recorded so that the natural resonance of his voice, and his fingers on the guitar strings are all right next to you.
His style of speak singing means that there is no struggle to reach heights of yesterday, and plenty of room for him to slip asides in between lyrics.
Includes excellent versions of 'I'll Be Your Mirror', 'Busload of Faith', 'Riptide', and 'New Sensations'. - Keith Kirchner
FRANK BLACK AND THE CATHOLICS
Frank Black and the Catholics (Play it again Sam)
Frank is lovelorn, and a bit confused on his fourth album.
His awkward sense of time, and his strange but very convictive lyrics are still the strength of his solo work, but here they turn back on themselves especially on songs like six-sixty-six, a sarcastically upbeat country jam, in which Frank howls to be put out of his misery (if he has to put up with the devil any longer), and on songs called 'Suffering', and 'Do You Feel Bad About It?'
The effect is chilling, when you are used to the old eccentric happiness, or artfully metaphorical despair of his previous work. There's blood all over this one, woahh. - Keith Kirchner
Sleazy Listening (Infectious)
Post-Industrial ambient grooves, with forced sinister lyrics, and some mild clasical overtones. Like standing in Masarykovo nádraží for an afternoon.
DELTA 72 'The Soul of a New Machine' (Touch & Go) A mixture of classic 60's style R and B (James Brown, Booker T) and noisy experimental punk music.
The groove is raw, and there are moments of brilliance, but it might be too hard to bridge the two. - Keith Kirchner
COURTNEY PINE Another Story (Polygram) - Master producers like Roni Size and 4 Hero hit most of the time on some of the already groovy Pine jazz tunes. Pioneers meet and break beats and bread over shark infested waters.
JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Munki (BMG) - Starts off familiar, and twists and turns in toe tapping directions for 17 tracks, feels like they learned some pop sensibility from their proximity to Elastica. A pleasant surprise. - Keith Kirchner
BARRY ADAMSON As Above, So Below (Mute) - Former Nick Cave bassists' 4th solo album has vocals, where once there were none. Muscular, up-tempo walls of drum and brass highlight the corners where the devil likes to hang out. For the odd demented coctail party. - Keith Kirchner
THE DELGADOS Peloton (Mantra) - Catchy cool guitar pop that defies the fact that it's out of style. Brings back memories of the Pixies and the dream of jumping in a bus headed for cities unknown, armed only with poetry written in beer stained notebooks. Delicate and sensuous. - Keith Kirchner
SPACE Tin Planet (Gut) - A collection of 70's inpsired melodrama that just stays on the right side of cheesy. When you find yourself compulsively singing that you are "You are the man who would kill for love," it will be way too late, and you'll be hooked on Space. They enjoy themselves, but they never fail to indulge you either. Be the coolest in your panelak. - Keith Kirchner