To the Teeth
Odds are that Ms. DiFranco’s a certified schizo, and a listen to the array of styles here provides confirmation. The only real thread between these 13 tracks is Ani’s ability to cram an essay about life into every one. Jazz (“Going Once”), hip hop (“Swing,” “Carry You Around”) and the styles of James Brown and Bob Dylan all make appearances. Brown’s horn blower Maceo Parker even provides accompaniment. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince breathes deeply on “Providence.” Yes, DiFranco has impeccable taste and pretty great arrangements, but she often leaves you begging for a catchy chorus to break things up. It’s mature, exciting and edgy at times, but kinda forgettable. Not to worry. At the rate DiFranco goes, a new CD will be out within the hour. —Greg Hoy
Too Pure U.K.
Bows is the latest project of Scottish multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Luke Sutherland. Fans of the British indie music scene may recall his group Long Fin Killie. LFK specialized in a brand of unique chamber pop that foregrounded Sutherland’s soft-spoken poetic musings against delicate yet rocking combinations of guitars, violins and cascading drums. Bows retains the gentle vocal stylings but recasts them in a barrage of towering, ambient guitar/keyboard structures and smooth gliding drum and bass beats. Much of the time Bows sounds like the logical heir to the swooning experimental guitar mantle long left abandoned by My Bloody Valentine. At other times, the addition of sensual guest female vocals may have you confusing Bows with several of current trip-hop/electronica outfits. Blush does drag in spots, but this CD ought to find a welcome home among fans of gorgeous ambient beat music. —Theo Cateforis
DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid
Subliminal Minded—The E.P.
Bar None Records
The riddim warfare continues on this collection of remixes and unreleased material, with treatment from the likes of the Dub Pistols, DJ Wally and tabla wizard Karsh Kale. Combining an astounding melange of eccentric samples with blistering break beats, heady dub-bass lines and eerily desolate soundscapes, Subliminal Minded can clearly pass as the soundtrack to a 21st century sci-fi flick. On the epic “Rapper’s Relight,” DJ Spooky demonstrates how a track can undergo repeated metamorphoses and still remain oddly coherent, while “Dialectical Transformation III Peace in Rwanda Mix” is an experiment in junglist chaos, reminiscent of Come to Daddy-era Aphex Twin. Karsh Kale’s remix “Futureproof in Zaire” is a gem but disappointingly short, clocking in at just under two minutes. The album provides the next lesson plan in space-age urbanism. Listen and learn the ways of the ‘illbient’ sound. —Akash Goyal
It should come as no surprise that the debut from the British trio Muse is saturated with passionate, albeit overpolished prog-rock. Spending their teenage years in the rural outskirts of England listening to Nirvana gives a glossy angst that it is desperately striving for. As much as a derivative of emotional ’90s rock as it is, Muse does reveal substantial talent for a band that’s only entering its 20s. Vocalist/guitarist Matthew Bellamy’s falsettos are breathtaking and his piercing string attacks carry the rhythm section of bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard to great heights. From the blazing strength of “Sunburn” to the dramatic balladry of “Unintended,” Bellamy bellows and whines his way through the dreary melodies like a tortured Jeff Buckley. With a fine-tuning of production by John Leckie (who also twiddled knobs for Radiohead’s The Bends), the record’s by-the-book intensity relies on style as well as substance. —Kenyon Hopkin
If nothing else, this eponymous debut offers up solid evidence that Mother Freedom is versatile. The five songs offered traverse everything from crunchy funk, jam-core and acid jazz to heated R&B, street-wise Reggae and barroom blues. Additionally, we discover that the band’s drummer, Andrew Bertrand, is a fine producer—the sound-staging is what you’d expect from a top-notch major-label release, and the album’s feel is decidedly upbeat and party-friendly. The first time I turned onto Bertrand’s drumming was when he stroked the skins for the psuedo-hippie outfit Reckoning. I’m glad to report that his dreadlocks have grown fatter and his skills have flourished. Just check out the spliff-burnin’ Trenchtown rock of “Slavin’ For Babylon” for proof. “Brain Spew” and “Take it Back” induce a happy hip-swivel thanks to Leslie Mendelson’s Wurlitzer and taut vocals, while guitarist Greg Bucking provides the vocal shadings and five-string muscle on “Arrival,” a grooving, horn-heavy adventure. The funk-laden “Don’t Tread on Me” is a perfect closer. —Ian D’Giff