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King Unique + Nubreed, Electric, Vol. 2 (EQ Recordings). Unlike too many generic mix sets, the second submission in EQ's latest series offers personality plus. Disc one stars King Unique, a British duo whose blend is spare yet sonically persuasive. In contrast, Nubreed, an Aussie trio, conjures up a spasmodic swirl of beeps, blips and booms that surge with energy. The combination is positively Electric. -- Roberts

Kitty & the Kowalskis, Chinese Democracy (Amp Records). For every ten Ramones offspring bands, one is made up of the fairer sex: the Donnas, the Ramonas, Shonen Knife, etc. Kitty's version is heavy on the bubblegum stickiness, à la Manda & the Marbles. If the Ramones are the punk Beach Boys, then, presumably, Kitty Kowalski is Gidget. Gabba Gabba Go Go's. -- Rick Skidmore

Charles Mingus, At UCLA 1965 (Sue Mingus Music/Sunnyside). This long-out-of-print set is among the most captivating live recordings in jazz history for reasons that go beyond its brilliant music. When the gifted sidemen participating in the performance can't handle a particularly difficult passage, Mingus actually orders them off stage to practice. The dynamics before and after this scolding are fascinating to behold. -- Roberts


Mini reviews

Norma Jean, Redeemer (Tooth and Nail Records). As if the Crusades weren't torturous enough, Norma Jean returns with the most brutal explosion of Christ-inspired noise this side of the Gaza Strip. Redeemer easily out-thrashes the most diabolical efforts of many death-metal bands, providing solid evidence that God can rock! -- Brandon Daviet

Plus Device, Puncture (Hefty Records). A dark, constricted mixture of rubber-band techno, Plus Device picks up where Kraftwerk left off and promptly crawls into a sleazy industrial hole. But Puncture never lives up to its meager promise of penetration, instead descending into a comically light backdrop whose seedy edges sound about as sexually ominous as Gargamel chasing the Smurfs. -- Sawyer

The Society of Invisibles, The Society of Invisibles (Babygrande Records). It's fine to get a bunch of talented MCs and producers to collaborate, but it's wack when the results approach gimmickry. Consisting of eighteen MCs, the Society resurrects the cheesy "horrorcore" genre of hip-hop by giving bin Laden props, shouting out Satan and cheering the destruction of the Twin Towers. Shock rap is corny. -- Salazar-Moreno

Vladimirs, Serpent Girl & Songs to Shed the Skin (Blood & Guts). Featuring members of the Blame, Estuary and Bad Samaritans, the Vladimirs have a legacy of hard-rocking, blood-swilling ill intentions. From the '50s horror of "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" to offensive rampage killings on "Death of the Party," these strapping young Vlads explore that carnival of sensuality and repulsion inside all of us. -- Skidmore


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