By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Timbaland and Magoo
Welcome to Our World
Tim Mosley, aka Timbaland, is a producer who has stepped into the spotlight a la Sean "Puffy" Combs--but unlike the Puffster, Mosley seems to understand his limitations. Rather than positioning himself as an egomaniacal rap word-slinger, he keeps the focus on the music, an easy-does-it flow that can get downright sultry at times--and when he vocalizes, he does so in a Barry White purr that perfectly complements the setting. In addition, he's smart enough to utilize artists who understand the vibe, including partner Magoo, sort-of partner Missy Elliott (whose Supa Dupa Fly disc had Timbaland all over it), Aaliyah, Ginuwine and Playa. The presentation is unexpectedly modest, with tempos that are allowed to percolate but not boil and grooves that move like skin-to-skin romance. The lyrics won't put Chuck D in a lather: When they aren't fixated on low-key boasting, they're concerned with mating rituals of a very show-business sort. (Typical is "Luv 2 Luv U," inspired by Donna Summer's old-school orgasmatron, in which Timbaland gets horizontal with a woman who had no interest in him until he started making money--and in whom he will have no interest once the deed is done.) But Mosley's World isn't about raising consciousness; it's about finding the soul in hip-hop and the hip-hop in soul. The ease with which he accomplishes this task results in a real surprise: an adamantly commercial recording that doesn't put you in mind of Monica Lewinsky's alleged specialty. Meaning, for the current-events-challenged among you, that it doesn't suck.
Legally Stoned: A New High in Drums'N'Bass
(LMP Co. Limited/Higher Limits)
This two-CD collection is literally almost halfway good, but the balance eventually tips in its favor as a result of a horn-and-acoustic-guitar interlude that enlivens some otherwise lousy drum-and-bass tracks on the second disc. As for the first platter, subtitled Mixed, it is populated by umpteen artists who create a long, warm, sensual flow of synthesizers and sax/trumpet riffing over quiet rhythms with infinitely adjustable speeds. It's pretty seductive stuff, and while you're sitting in your BarcaLounger, it may call to mind corny but soothing images of steaming jungles or leaves spinning atop whirlpools. When you're in a more active state, however, the futuristic buzz of dirty old metal machine music is capable of transforming your living quarters into the setting of a made-for-cable erotic thriller.
Breathe As You Might
The flaming cover of this Atlanta-based act's second full-length should come with a cautionary sign, like the ones posted in front of the rides at Disneyland. Of course, pregnant women and children under 36 inches tall aren't the only ones who'll find Pineal Ventana's dark art rock disturbing. But never fear: The combination of distorted guitar sculptures, gnashing voices and striking instrumental statements comes off as invigorating and cathartic (to say the least). The band's most ambitious soundscapes, such as "The Slow Shock of Recognition," are rumbles in the skronk--exquisitely textured improvisations sprinkled with wailing saxophones, synthesized ambience and singing by Clara Clamp that rivals the intensity achieved by Jean Smith (Mecca Normal, Two Foot Flame). Elsewhere, "Man Lies" and "Parched Mind" sport a primitive, militaristic beat that underlines the haunting contrast between Mitchell Foy's over-modulated ranting and Clamp's fairy-tale background vocals; "Leyner Notes" juxtaposes Saccharine Trust rhythms with Ms. Clamp's Portishead-like songbird warble; "Deadlands" meanders into an electronic/percussive/guitar-heavy vamp capable of making any Crash Worship fan lose his inhibitions; and "Spindlewick" shreds a bass-happy Buzzcocks intro with advanced sax intuition before devolving into a nefarious ritual. Thanks to lyrical passages marked by phrases like "slicing veins," "torn and bloody" and "we are broken," Breathe overflows with deviance and eroticism. But the raw intelligence that provocatively lingers throughout its sixty minutes prevents the music from being pegged as gothic, industrial or punk. For that, the listener will be grateful. After all, outsider art is supposed to be uncategorizable. And this is.
More Reggae for Kids
Although RAS Records' stable includes Israel Vibration, Culture, Mad Professor and other worthy artists, the 1992 release Reggae for Kids holds the unlikely distinction of being the company's top-selling album ever. Its success is attributable to a couple of factors: In addition to being a fine compilation of songs by RAS's best acts, it has become a teaching tool educators have played for everyone from grade-schoolers in Washington, D.C., to autistic students in Florida. (Apparently, kids have the same natural affinity for reggae's up-tempo bounce as they do for mud, frogs and avoiding baths.) More Reggae follows in the same vein as its predecessor: It's a strong assortment of new songs, covers and appropriately Jamaicanized traditional children's songs. Yami Bolo's "Raindrops (Keep Falling on My Dreads)" is charming, while Bunny Wailer proves that his voice was made for serenading the young with "Didn't You Know." There's also a snappy, pro-school dancehall chant by seven-year-old Steven McGregor that recalls a young Ziggy Marley's efforts at Sunsplash '81, and two numbers by Steven's father, Freddie: a cover of Bob Marley's "One Love" and "Big Ship," the offering's most infectious tune. Although these and other songs are geared toward children, More Reggae is, at its roots, simply a collection of great reggae songs that are as appealing to me now, at age 25, as they would have been back in the days when I was sporting Underoos. Beats the stuffing out of that fat purple dinosaur, too.