music reviews

Most rock critics, like most employees of Tower Records, end up mistaking themselves for the rockers they revere. Most of the rest promote themselves as professores.

 -- Dave Hickey, art and music critic

Antipop Consortium
Arrhythmia (Warp Records)

Antipop Consortium is the most experimentally innovative Hip Hop group I have ever heard. Arrhythmia permeates with the sounds of an underwater video game in which Antipop are defending the progression of Hip Hop. Bouncing from MC to MC, the lyrics are flowed over loops of Ping-Pong balls, converted into beats, and warped by a crescendo of arcade game bleeps. The four MCs of Antipop: Beans, High Priest, and M. Saayid, base their experimentation in their mastery of flowing lyrics while the producer, Earl Blaize, creates tracks and sounds that override any new style of Hip Hop I have ever heard. Emphasizing the MC while challenging the production and sound of most Hip Hop albums, Arrhythmia takes listeners ahead of their time.


Stars on My Ceiling   (Chocolate Industries)

Prematurely, Stars on My Ceiling can be likened to an Aphex Twin or Plaid album. However, Caural sneaks an undercurrent of down-tempo Hip Hop atmosphere to his melange of electronically crafted tracks. Although Caural utilizes unlikely combinations of sounds, their coupling produces a dreamlike, floating auditory sensation. In the first track alone, the sound of what seems to be spoons clinking together is layered over bass-heavy beats that suddenly warp into soft, low electronic chirps that seem like electric rain drops. These samples of "found objects" can often be tedious unless they are masterfully integrated into a track, an integration which Caural seamlessly creates. Stars has the unexpected changes in a sound structure that produce a metamorphosis of Hip Hop-inspired down-tempo sound.


Tomorrow Right Now  (Warp Records)

Hailing from the recently dissipated Antipop Consortium, Beans has come to "Phreek the Beat" with a lyrical arsenal of Hip Hop poetry careening around a circus tent of space-age rhythm. His abstract vocals are delivered deadpan, through a wordplay that recalls a subconscious premonition of the future. These lyrics undulate over computerized tinkering, beats that compliment the angular feel of Beans' signature vocal projections. Most of his tracks seem to focus on sound's underlying existence in space. However, Beans offers the personal "Booga Suga", a spoken word piece that traces the descent into drug addiction and its relationship with the creation of poetry and art. The break up of APC is unfortunate, but Beans is still giving us a lyrical tour into the future of rap and all I got to say is: word.


DJ Cheb i Sabbah
Krishna Lila   (Six Degrees Records)

In the final album of his Indian-electronic musical triptych, DJ Cheb i Sabbah takes a more traditional approach to his modernized renderings of Indian devotional music. Krishna Lila is a predominantly vocal offering where the devotional voice guides sensual undulations of classical Indian sitar, violin, and percussion through passages of hypnotic drones. Unlike the more experimental style of his previous album, Shri Durga, Krishna exudes a sense of peaceful departure from a sound dependent on heavy beats to one engendering a divine synthesis of tradition and technology through music.


The Poets of Rhythm
What Goes ‘Round
 (Soulciety Records)

On What Goes ‘Round, the Poets of Rhythm cook up funk that portrays its multiple manifestations, while embodying many influences and originators. These interpretations have their pros and cons. The full band plays instrumentals that are technically tight compositions of funk and jazz styles, both upbeat and mellow. Many tracks are inspired by James Brown and his band, but not direct copies of the funk master's songs. However, on some tracks, the vocals are overt repetitions of Brown's style and ad-libs, i.e. "good God, y'all!". After a few listens, this can get tedious. Thankfully, this does not take away from the album's strong points which are mainly in the instrumentals. My favorite track, "More Mess on My Thing", is a horn-heavy crescendo that can only lead to getting down. "Choking on a Piece of Meat" provides the mellow soul reminiscent of Hi-Times Records artists from the '60s including Ann Peebles and Al Green. While the Poets of Rhythm may not have originated funk, they do keep it alive and raw, digging deeper into the dance floor.


Various Artists
Red, Hot + Riot: a Tribute to the Music &
Spirit of Fela Kuti 

The tribute album produced by the Red, Hot + Riot series pays due respect to Fela Kuti, the pioneer of Afro-beat who embodied political protest through his music during the '60s and '70s. Due to Fela's skillful use of elements of long jazz instrumentals, organic beats - which some say are the predecessors of modern house music - and incorporation of politically fueled lyrics, Fela has influenced an equally diverse group of musicians as this tribute conveys. From Sade to the Roots, Baaba Maal to D'Angelo, Macy Gray to Me'shell Ndegeocello, these are the artists who have decided to pay homage to a musical master who started revolution through his craft. Although his early death caused a great sense of loss, especially for Nigerian musicians and revolutionaries, it is obvious that his legacy is one that will not fade.


Boards of Canada
Twoism (Warp Records)

On this re-release, Twoism (originally released in 1995), the Scottish duo known as Boards of Canada filters psychedelic, electronically textured beats, some warm and fuzzy, some jolting and eye-bugging, through a mesh of synthetic drones and beautiful beats that make one feel one is back in the womb hearing all around him through a filter of fluid and skin. This, together with their 1999 album, Music Has the Right to Children, further proves the seamless perfection that Boards has offered to current experimental/electronic genres. Following in the footsteps of similar artists who have pioneered their unique sounds Boards of Canada continues to develop music that is difficult to categorize due to their constant innovation and tight technological skill.


DJ Vadim
USSR: The Art of Listening (Ninja Tune)

If you or someone you love needs to learn how to listen, Russian turntablist DJ Vadim can break it down in four easy steps: 1) Listen to his new album USSR: The Art of Listening; 2) Feel the razor-sharp turntable techniques utilized to create Hip Hop tracks - some instrumentals, some scratching fests, and some featuring MCs - that resemble futuristic funk jams; 3) Absorb the sounds of the vocal artists, like beat-boxing Kela and word slinging Yarah; 4) Don't forget! Listening to Vadim's new album is an experience in Hip Hop that revolves around all of the elements: words, rhythms, beats, rhymes and most importantly, the DJ.


Medusa & Feline Science
Undaground Crewed (Independent Distributor)

The long-awaited release from Medusa - the LA based queen of underground Hip Hop - and her band, Feline Science, is now available. Featuring only female MCs, Undaground Crewed transforms the typical female booty gyrations of mainstream Hip Hop into lyrical gyrations that embody strength and demand respect. Beats provided by the DJ are interlaced with live musicians who create the funky, organic instrumentals, while Medusa's unshakable flows relay her undeniable strength as lyricist, MC and vocalist. This album is an empowering representation of females in Hip Hop. However, that is not to say that one should buy it based solely on the fact that these are female artists. Regardless of their genders, these are Hip Hop artists who shine above the usual cronies of the mainstream, and this album proves that there are better things out there if you are willing to look for them.

My Boombox (boombox)

San Francisco based artist Benji — Benjamin Renard — is a prime example of the new electronic music surfacing on the West Coast. The album title, My Boombox, reveals Benji’s successful attempt to create textured sounds of beats, loops, samples, and 808 madness. I recently saw Benji perform in an S.F. gallery/bar and watched everyone bobbing and nodding their heads to the irresistible pulse of these mid-tempo electronic creations. The music offered chill time, dance-worthy beats, and a unique flavor. Look out for Benji’s album and performances at:

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