DJ Kicks

Nine sane and rewarding life choices we promise you will not get punished by God for

Pick Hits

The Rough Guide to Astor Piazzolla
(World Music Network)

The tango master cut a lot of pro forma music for Milan, the French soundtrack-electronica-semiclassical outfit that claims to "represent" Piazzolla's "complete catalog" and doesn't come close—his great American Clave albums, for instance, are now with Nonesuch. But the half of this gratifying selection that started on Milan—including "Tanguedia 3" and "Los Sueños," both reprised for American Clave—packs a full measure of dynamic sophistication and high drama, and as Grace Jones or Yo-Yo Ma could tell you, "Libertango" is just where to begin. Concentrating on his mature period—which strictly speaking means 1978 to 1988, although there are three 1975 tracks and one from the '50s—this is as convincing an introduction as Tango: Zero Hour itself. A

End of Love

Since all the lines make sense, and almost all the stanzas almost make sense, you keep waiting for the songs to make sense. And waiting, and waiting, through calm, memorable arrangements that are never in a hurry. But they rarely come clear, perhaps because Eef Barzalay believes it isn't just love that's ending, it's the world, and what exactly is sensible about that? As befits an Israeli in Nashville in the end times, he worries about his relationship with the Almighty, so it's no surprise that "Jews for Jesus Blues" parses fine: "Now that I'm found I miss being lost" means what it says, with attendant explanations. The next song is called "God Answers Back": "If you get everything you hope for/Then I will have to punish you." Which really isn't fair. But what can we mortals do? A MINUS

Winchester Cathedral

Decried for the sin of repeating themselves by those who once discerned the face of the Blessed Virgin in their surgical masks, these minor formalists find their calling. Really, children, they were never punky enough for fast-short-hard. Here, their structures adamantly circular and their tunes less catchy but more durable, they make dandy mystagogues on an album that begins inarticulate and attains the nirvana of total nonverbality. A MINUS


Long on hooks and cameos, the Wild Bunch DJ's mix tape connects by the crude expedient of not proving how obscure his crates are. Sure he showcases rare versions of Tricky's "Karmacoma" and Aretha's "Rock Steady," but the songs you know—and if you don't, you will. Think of it as Massive Attack dinner music, nothing more, nothing less. B PLUS

Live in Paris With the Dennis Bovell Dub Band

Though he's only released two albums since his last live one, 20 years ago now, LKJ retains the calm confidence with which savvy ideologues generate authority—so much more convincing in the long run than fervent rhetoric. With leftists everywhere twisting in anxiety or flailing out in defensive contempt, his voice alone is a comfort; announcing "a couple of old anti-fascist numbers" or matter-of-factly explaining the economic program that will bring everyone the precious gift of "more time," he sounds so intelligent, decent, and uncompromised that you feel political struggle can be a sane and rewarding life choice. His voice quieter but undiminished, his band subtler but no less tricky or effective, he unblushingly repeats five songs from the 1985 set, and although I wish he'd tapped Tings an' Times more—"Sense Outa Nansense," certainly—I sure didn't mind hearing the early material again. A MINUS

Piracy Funds Terrorism, Vol. 1
(no label)

Aesthetically, the choice is more like M.I.A. vs. the world, and though I know it's wrong of me, I'll take M.I.A. I'll take the conscious, autonomous individual artist, oppressive concept though that may be, over the welter of cultural forces from which she emerged. With a less complex and compelling artist I might make the opposite choice, though even the hippest mash-ups and mix tapes have less to say than they're given credit for. But I find more fascination—and pleasure, if not variety—in M.I.A. juxtaposed against herself than in, for instance, favela funk juxtaposed against "Walk Like an Egyptian." Which isn't to deny I also find all these good things in favela funk juxtaposed against "Walk Like an Egyptian." A MINUS

(World Music Network)

Living east of Avenue B from 1965 to 1975, I probably dismissed many of these songs out my window for the jerrybuilt noise they are—not like the salsa elders who resisted Nuyorican soul jive's silly lyrics and simplified dance beats, but like the Anglophone rock snob I would have sworn I wasn't. After all, I dug Jimmy Castor and Joe Cuba on AM radio, and no matter what hip-hoppers think, I consider soul jazz even cheesier now than I did then. But this stuff is—and, I'm sure, was—a gas. In Spanish, Spanglish, or English, enlisting Batman and covering the Rascals or luring the likes of Tito Puente and Celia Cruz into teen hits no more heartfelt than Perry Como's "Hot Diggity," boogaloo proves one of the purest party musics ever. I can't dance to it even now—the crudest salsa is wiser than my hips, mano. But I love its spirit. A MINUS

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