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 Victor Wooten
Yin-Yang
Compass Records

One listen to this two-disc stunner will quickly prove that Victor Wooten, whose regular gig is as Bela Fleck's fat-stringer, is one of most impressive electric bassists playing today. His facility and skills are unparalleled, and his studio work is nothing short of magical. On "Kaila Raps," Wooten loops recorded vocal tracks of his daughter at 16 months old, while matching her vocal intonations note for note on his electric upright bass with jaw-dropping results. "Zenergy," a space-age stroll down a bluegrass back alley, features the unrelenting banjo squalls of Fleck and the brilliant drumming of Dave Matthews Band's Carter Beauford, a musician almost as gifted as Wooten. "Hormones in the Headphones" features Wooten funking his bass on eight different tracks into a bopping Clinton and P-Funk groove that will surely leave Bootsy Collins starry-eyed and hungry for new bass lessons.—Ian D'Giff


Beck
Midnite Vultures
DGC Records

Although Beck spent the '90s being an icon to nerdy, Pavement-worshipping alterna-types everywhere, he takes a decidedly funky turn for the better on his latest. He's always professed admiration for old-school hip hop and R&B mack-daddies and pulls out all the eccentric stops in giving props. We get "Sexx Laws," mixing Stax-flavored brass with countrified steel guitar and banjo, "Get Real Paid," saturated in Bambaataa-soaked electro-funk, and "Broken Train," which bubbles over with theremin, fuzz guitar and clavinet. Other flourishes include Beth Orton singing backup on the dreamy "Beautiful Way" and swooshing lasers permeating the video game hip-hop/space-rock hybrid "Milk & Honey." Gifted producers the Dust Brothers return with surprisingly mixed results. Although the half-baked, Master P-wannabe "Hollywood Freaks" turns out to be a flatter rip-off of Chris Rock's "Champagne," the pair find success with the faux-Prince jam "Debra," in which Beck strains his falsetto to Mayfield-like heights.—Dave Gil de Rubio


Brokeback
Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table
Thrill Jockey

A member of the Tortoise family, Brokeback's Douglas McCombs uses sparse, textural sounds to create relaxing, airy atmospheres. Think Angelo Badalamenti's work on Twin Peaks or a stripped-down, organic Blade Runner soundtrack. Fellow minimalist friends such as John McEntire and Rob Mazurek contribute keyboards and the like, with occasional "found" industrial sounds rising and dipping. McCombs doesn't offer songs so much as he paints vast aural pictures. Of course, as with much indie instrumental music (Don Caballero, Isotope 217, et al), the song titles seem more incidental and ironic than practical. "We Let the 'S' Hang in the Air" and "Sometimes a Cold Rain Can Push Down on the Back of Your Head" are intriguing sentences, but song-wise, let the listener in on nothing. That's part of what makes this genre so special; like its presentation, the music demands personal interpretation for its completion.—Greg Hoy


Save Ferris
Modified
Epic

Finicky ska fans may brush off Save Ferris as trendy sellouts, abandoning their first-wave heritage and following the same path as other ska-pop bands like No Doubt. But don't be too quick to write off the California seven-piece as a candy-coated mishap based on Modified's first single, "Mistaken." The band has a healthy influence of '80s new wave—as well as ska and punk—and the ingredients blend well. Tracks such as "The Only Way To Be" have a rocksteady beat that erupts into choruses of robust guitars and horns, while only fragments of ska seep into the bouncy pop of the optimistic "Holding On." And for such a fun-sounding band, routine topics on relationships take on deep meaning via the strong vocals of Monique Powell. If you can digest this accessible yet somewhat disposable youth-culture output, then Save Ferris will deliver the same kind of feel-good vibe as the film it's named for.-Kenyon Hopkin


LI Sounds

MC Double M & The Yup Yup Crew
Horn if you're Honky
Dunket Records

Now that Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit have brought that 2 Live Crew wedding of violence and crass references to the female anatomy back into the mainstream, Strong Island is stepping up. Astoria-based MC Double M & the Yup Yup Crew throw down hard-on, horny rap with new-wave samples to create a heady stew of dick-wavin' rap. Double M's flow is straight-up old school. It ain't original, but it's efficient enough to not overcrowd the production. The music muscle is provided by Spank E. Spank, who seems to have spent many a night laboring through the wealth of samples to have you think "Spank" ain't just a name but a lifestyle. Example: On the single "She's a Sleeze," the "bomp, bomp, bomp, badomp bomp" from Cream's "I Feel Free" is laid nicely over the opening drums of Blondie's "Rapture," illustrating a crossing of genres that's prevalent throughout the album. But the rap "while you're working at your job, she's jerking in the bed. Her kitty's never hungry 'cause she keeps it well-fed," is straight outta Miami circa 1989. For more info, email dunketrecords@hotmail.com—Bill Jensen

 
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