ASIAN MYSTIC - A Selection of Asian Ambient Releases from Pacific Moon Records - Pacific Moon/CD (Distributed by Allegro Corporation)

This first release in the spotlight called Island is an intriguingly relaxing release from the Pacific Moon catalog.  Basing itself primarily on the theme of “island” with a geographic focus on the island formation of Okinawa that falls with a string of Japanese islands, but by culture, tradition, and culture is distinctly not Japan.  An album rich with gentle celestial rhythms leading was to serene cultural images, Island meanders like a river though territories, passing across boundaries and ideologies that sometimes differ from landscape to landscape.  Soothing vocal offerings throughout this release bring the mind, body, and soul into equilibrium with natural settings, creating vivid images of an Island nation flowing with culture distinction and diversity.

Asian Blossoms is the product of Missa Johnouchi in collaboration with Li-Hua Ensemble. Similar to Island with regard to the illumination of cultural appreciation, Asian Blossoms continues along slightly different, more new-age path incorporation sweeping string sections, rhythms percussion, creating an neo-classical opera with leanings into the future. A very pleasing collection of music that echo’s cultural triumph, Asian Blossoms cradles the modern sound of Nippon with dreamy soundscape excursions that stimulate the mind in a way words cannot describe.

Rainbow by Jia Peng Fang is a premier classical collection of modern Japanese, working along a thematic script of man’s reverence and connection to the wonders of Mother Nature.  Comprised of 12 engaging compositions, Jia Peng Fang  along side producer Seiichi Kyoda and a host of peripheral studio musicianship create a powerful “natural-sounding” original score of music that captures the essence and energy of nature and the unspoken beauty that astounds the inquisitive and open mind. Rainbow drifts between classical, neo-ambient, and spiritual new age realms, merging the ancient with modern, the natural with the technological.

Lastly, we are graced by the enchanting ambience of Mizuyo Komiya’s album Lullaby, a fascinating musical showcase led forth by the modern 25-string update of Japanese string-instrument koto, which historically was designed with only 13 strings. A  neo-ambient piece embracing times past and forthcoming, Lullaby resonates a sweet serenity of musical thought throughout tracks “Beyond the Window,” “I’ve Felt a Little Autumn” and “Ho Ho Hotaru Koi Parts I & II.”  This is the style of music that complements an art gallery opening, as soothing rhythms and gentle harmonics mix together into a blissful blend of mystical ambience.  -Alkemist


NATARAJ(XT) - Tandava - Nutone/Netwerk/CD

Now this is a new tweak in the current fascination with the Asian Underground sound. While the usual lineup of western electronic players augmenting their sound with traditional players from whichever genre is currently hot in the global music scene, Nataraj(XT) stands this preconception on its head. Two Westerners, Pierre Moitram, sitar master from Paris & Richard Bernet, sarod master and Indian music instructor from California join forces with French keyboardist Kapi, whose Indian ancestry is interwoven throughout his electronic soundscapes to create a sound that combines both Eastern & Western scales & tonalities without sounding patronizing to either culture.

Nataraj, God of the dance in ancient sanskrit, is paid homage throughout the eight tracks on Tandava. From slow, evolving hymns to the pleasures of sense and sensuality to churning, driving rhythms of worship and motion, this is a new step in our global village.  -martini

NATACHA ATLAS - The Remix Collection - Mantra/Beggars Banquet/CD

For those of us who have been chomping at the bit for a release like this, unclench the teeth and embrace this release like a call from heaven.  Natacha Atlas’ career as a solo artist and her vocal contribution and direct link associations to Transglobal Underground has spanned time and distance, establishing her as a premier ambassador for spiritual and ethnic music.   The Remix Collection is the definitive collection of tracks previously released only on 12” that were given the ultimate re-working by some of the best production talent who also work frequently within the global beats and rhythms spectrums. 

Primary remixers across the (9) tracks are Youth, Banco de Gaia, 16B, Transglobal Underground, TJ Rehmi, Talvin Singh, Bullitnuts, Spooky and drum and bass guru Klute (Tom Withers of Certificate 18 Recordgins). It doesn’t get any better than this, with classics like “Duden,” “Yalla Chant,” “Amulet,” “One Brief Moment” and “Bastet” shining finally brighter than ever before. -Alkemist

BLOOD & FIRE - Select Cuts/VA - Blood and Fire ltd./CD

This is the first chapter of Blood and Fire remixes which obviously means there are more to come and all I can say is bring it on. With artists ranging from I Roy to Horace Andy and remixes executed by Smith and Mighty, Groove Corporation, The Orb among others this release hits from track one through fourteen. Speaking of Smith and Mighty, their treatment of the Yabby You plate, “Conquering Lion” is a romp through fields of d&b and dubwise measured out to satiate the dry and crippled. The Orb work with a Keith Hudson track that I am sure will still be pounding in my chest tomorrow. “Leggo The Herb Man Dub” by Glen Brown and King Tubby and remixed by Small Axe vs Terminal Head is a super sonic walk in the dub gardens, simply gorgeous. Every track should/could be reviewed to paint the picture that is perfection. As they say, don’t walk, run to your local dealer and bulster your collection with this release. -ahdub

BOSSA MUNDO…when Brazil Meets the World - Yellow Productions/CD (Distributed by Wave Entertainment)

From the opening percussion-centered rhythms on opening track “People from the Sun and The Earth” by Calm, the listener is immediately transported to a world of Basement Jaxx-styled bossa nova beats with acidic jazz tendencies and sultry female vocals.  The albums vivid imagery is made accessible by artists like Jazztronik, Neon Phusion, Utsumi, Limbo Experience, Chari Chari, who provide lush musical offerings that resonate between chilled-out Ibiza-meets-Brazil motifs and disco-fueled charisma.  Several groovy remixes grace the album to add that critical Festival euphoria courtesy of Waiwan, AtJazz, Masters At Work, Francois K and Eric Krupper.

Fourteen tracks in all complete this album’s circle of finesse, well defined by melodic orchestrations that can be as easily heard on the dancefloor or on the streets of Rio. It doesn’t get any better than Bossa Mundo.   –Kilburn

MIKE BROOKS AND FRIENDS - Just the Vibes 1976-1983 - Moll-Selecta/CD

With friends like Don Carlos, Jah Lloyd and backing bands like The Aggravators, The Revolutionaries, and Roots Radics you know the vibe hitting tape has got to be massive. And as if that isn’t enough, toss in Prince Jammy, Scientist, Lee Perry, and King Tubby at the mixing desk, light the match and boom, classic vibes to keep you skanking from track one through sixteen. Featured cuts include “Money is Not All,” mixed by none other than Tubby. Cornell Campbell takes the lead on “Brother Killing Brother,” which summons the spirit and sound of Curtis Mayfield and sets it to walking beat…sweet, sweet, sweet. Mike Brooks favored being out of the spotlight working behind the scenes with luminaries such as Bim Sherman, Prince Far I, and Mighty Diamonds in the course of his career as producer. The whole time sitting on this awesome talent. It’s great to finally have a collection of Mike Brook's work in one place. Good on Moll-Selecta for releasing Just The Vibes to the world. -ahdub

DA LATA -Songs from the Tin - Palm/CD

DA LATA is Brazilian Portuguese meaning “from the tin” which refers to an incident when tins of fine herb washed up on the Brazilian coastline. This gives us a glimpse of where DA LATA are coming from as this is music that fits in the brain like a well intended puff. At the heart of the project is the English duo of Patrick Forge and Chris Franck. The former a Kiss FM Jock and world renowned DJ and the later a multi-instrumentalist. They are joined by vocalist Lilana Chachian whose vocals sweep across the recording like a warm summer breeze signaling the end of the day and the beginning of nightfall. Rounding out Songs from the Tin, is Portuguese percussionist Oli Albergaria Savill. To single out one song is to describe them all; rich arrangements and instrumentation is found throughout this masterful release. I hate rating systems, but if I were to use one this would get five out of five spliffs, stars or tins. -ahdub 

DELERIUM - Poem - Nettwerk/CD

The empire that Rhys Fulber and Bill Leeb have created musically is comparable to few.  With an immeasurable recording history as Intermix, Noise Unit, and Synaesthesia among others, Delerium have scaled fabulous new heights on their latest release Poem, offering a beautiful new tapestry that was set forth by previous releases Semantic Spaces and Karma.  The days of the gothic embrace and cavern echoes have given way nicely to their evolved modern embrace of placid cathedral chants, gentle breakbeats, and colorful rhythms.  Enchanting tracks  “Innocente,” “Fallen Icons,” “Myth,” and “Nature’s Kingdom” typify the intrinsic beauty and diversity that define Delerium’s tasteful union of ethnic rhythms and modern technology.   –Kilburn

DOCKING SEQUENCE - BSI Campaign Volume 1 - BSI Records/CD

Dance music compilations are a dime a dozen. But intelligent, meaningful compilations are found few and far between. It takes a great deal of vision, knowledge, and insight to construct a compilation that gets the mind, body, and soul working together to build a connection to the music.

BSI’s first compilation Docking Sequence is that one in a million album where substance, color and imagination are not sacrificed for the corporate big-named, close-harnessed monkey.  Sometimes not expressed in words but by thought, the global convergence of music can produce the most introspective and vivid mental imagery. Each of the 17 cuts performed by Dubcreator, Black Faction, Sound Secretion, DJ Spooky, Muslimgauze, Alpha & Omega, Otaku, Jah Warrior and The Rootsman works loosely along the gentle musical borders of Asia, The Middle East, Africa, and The Caribbean, foraging a natural union where technology, knowledge, and vision resonate to form the ultimate form of expression:  music.  –Brad Anderson

DRY & HEAVY - Full Contact - BSI Records/CD

Jah free dub and dancehall reggae has never sounded so fresh.  Dry & Heavy are a unique, well-established production unit who are also the key percussion and bass sections of Audio Active.  The swirling resonance of guitars complemented by the rolling bass and accompanying percussion make D&H’s third and latest full length LP, Full Contact, live up to its namesake.  Opening track “Tiger Claw Skank” flirts with a distant instrumental flirtation with “Cherry O Baby” written by Diamond but caned by UB40.   “Love Explosion” is a smooth, jazz-reggae number with a sensual and crisp vocal performance by Likkle Mai that brings the listener into that almost ‘one-with-the-music-thing.’  One listen to the echoing magic vibrantly displayed on “Knife” and you will know exactly what I mean. This music demands attention.  –Art

DUB REVOLUTION - UK Roots: High Stepp’in to the Future - ROIR/CD

ROIR’s dub-sonic sojourns into the world of deep, electrified dub continue very nicely into the jah-rastafari arena with the re-release compilation Dub Revolution, a true steppers compilation of edgy dubwiser sounds from the likes of The Disciples, Zion Train, Alpha & Omega, Scarab, WordSound, Testament, Little Lord Creator, Centry Meets The Music Family, and Tribulation All Stars.  The heavy bassy riddims are best absorbed not through regular speakers, but rather though a nice set of headphones to maximize the dub sunsplashes you will be injecting into your auditory canal. It doesn’t get any better than this, and ROIR is one of the premier, music-saavy labeles to locate such amazing dubwiser compilations.  -Alkemist

HYPER [BOREA] - Ten Years Under the Earth - M21/Global Fusion (Distributed by Allegro Music)

There have always been associations to the mystical with regard to music from foreign soil.  Ireland’s Hyperborea are one of the premier artist collectives whose embrace of Celtic dance fusion is illuminated brightly by their powerfully engaging music.   Celt Dance Fusion is the divine tapestry sewn forth with flavorful elements of ancient and modern day Ireland. Normally a two-person group led by the enchantingly hypnotic Gaelic vocals of Una O’Boyle and programming genius David Bickley, Hyperborea take the listener on a complex musical journey through Ireland’s past, present and future.  One moment the music gives the intimate atmosphere of a club setting then thrusts you a few hundred years back to a Gaelic clan gathering. A pure-balanced blend of sheer innovative, passion and technological skills, Hyperborea have defined and mastered the art. –Alkemist

I ROY - Touting I Self - Heartbeat Records/CD - wb

With the recent passing of dancehall legend I Roy (born Roy Samuel Reid), reggae music lost not only one of its biggest hit-makers but one of its true pioneers. The string of hits which began in the '70's and continued for next two decades combined with the ease with which he moved from one producer to the next, always updating and refining his sound, took I Roy to the top of the reggae world. A position only his untimely death could bring him down from.

From the beginning, his combination of fiercely political lyrics with a self-deprecating sense of humor put I Roy in a league of his own, one which would soon be filled with DJ's owing much to I Roy's success. This singular technique is evident throughout Touting I Self, a collection of tracks hand picked by the man himself just before his passing.   Highlighting many of his biggest hits, like "Setup Yourself Jazzbo", "Repatriation is a Must" and the classic track from his first release "Buck and The Preacher", his choice of songs for this release also features several lesser known gems dear to his heart. All essential to knowing I Roy as one of reggae's greatest stars. I Roy, keep on spinning.  -martini

KIRIL - Homebound - Tone Causalities/CD

Melbourne Australia is safe at night with the primal electronic incantations of Kiril wafting through the air. With tasty bits of drum & bass executed on top of phat polyrhythmic wanderings, it gets me thinking there may be a golden thread to Afro Celt Sound System, DJ Cheb i Sabbah and Joi.  Make no mistake there is an individual voice found here conjured from centuries of aboriginal bones ground to dust and fed to memory. We are the recipients of this new dialectic, listening, living and dancing our asses off. The creator has indeed taken the time to inspire an image and as time fades to nothing this is the soundtrack of forever. This stellar 2000 Tone Causalties release is now in heavy rotation on my tables. –ahdub

KOZO – Planned Penetration - Waveform/CD

A bottle of Bordeaux, a big fat joint of sensi, and the finest pair of legs the night had to offer. You retire to the basement apartment in your high-rise and then slowly, ever so slowly you rise through the floors to the top, onto the roof-deck and beyond… This is music for the wee hours when time and space are less real and abstraction rules the mind. Kozo wears his Miles like a badge, which isn’t a bad thing mind you because his world doesn’t stop there. Add a breakbeat dub convulsion or two and enough space to loose your keys and you get the idea. “Recycler” plays games with time, as do many of the cuts striping them down into a chaotic parody with the horn always ready to comment on the moment and a lean drone to ensure the back of the mind is well satisfied. Kozo Ikeno performs his own compositions, which adds to the solitude. This Waveform release has one main voice and DJ Krush keeping score.   -ahdub 

FEMI KUTI - Shoki Shoki - Barclay France/MCA/CD

Part political manifesto, part sex manual delivered with the tenderness of a poet and immediacy of James Brown, Shoki Shoki is the latest release from Femi Kuti who also happens to be one fine alto and tenor player. With masterful production handled by Sodi, Femi delivers a confident and inspired performance throughout. This is truly conscious music, in reaction to and in spite of the political turmoil that plagues much of the proud and awes inspiring continent that is Africa. Femi’s father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the genius originator of Nigerian Afrobeat has passed the genes to his young son and with this document Femi clearly defines himself as his own man/musician. Along with his band Positive force, Femi delivers nine fresh cuts. On the US release there are three additional remixes, including   “Beng Beng Beng,” remixed by I:Cube and DJ Gilb’r which is sure to shake an ass or two. Highly recommended to those of us who are free and proud and still know how to lay it down. -ahdub

FEMI KUTI - Shoki Remixed - MCA/CD

Shoki Remixed is the highly anticipated treatment of Femi Kuti’s release Shoki Shoki Shoki. It features among others Gilb’r & I:Cube, Cyril K & Olivier Portal, Francois K, Dixon, and Da Lata who take turns and liberties with Nigeria’s new king of Afrobeat. This should go a long way in establishing Femi Kuti as a viable presence in the dance market. These remixes go beyond the dance form with a couple dub nuggets that really smoke. The first of which, “Ergele” combines darting horns with a subsonic reggae bass line. On “Scatta Head” the positive force horn section announces the coming of the dub ending in an echo chamber and with a crack of a drum as large as Africa we are off to the races. The Positive force singers are also featured on this side. A second remix of the single, “Beng Beng Beng” is provided by Da Lata and maintains the syncopated feel of the original while adding some Brazilian flair. -ahdub

BILL LASWELL - Lo Def Pressure - Sub Rosa/CD (Distributed by DEI)

Possibly the most well-respected, well-integrated, well-connected and innovative producers of the last 15 years, Bill Laswell has created a personal dynasty from all his collaborative and personal recording endeavors that have spanned nearly every genre from working with Pete Namlook’s FAX imprint and reinterpretations of Celtic Folk music to his sonic experiments with dub and ethnic-based music.  Adding another important script to his resume, Laswell presents Lo Def Pressure , an inspiring mix of beats and breaks from the inner core of New York City to the mystical bhangra blasts of New Dehli.   Creating his own rhythmic blend of Indian drum and bass more commonly recognized as ‘sounds from the Asian Underground’, Laswell takes ethnic beats and rhythms from the winds passing the twin trade towers to the hills and dales beneath Kashmir, exposing the finest in Asian-inspired music with heavy emphasis on the hypnotic sounds of the tabla.  The music offered here is new ground broken for the masses, though just another vigorous day at the studio where Laswell calls home.  –Alkemist

MARINEVILLE - Redpath House - Universal Egg/CD

Its not everyday that a creatively designed album that mixes dub, drum & bass, ambient, and trance sensibilities into one explosive concoction.   This is the case with Marineville’s debut album Redpath House, released back in 1999 on Zion Train’s imprint Universal Egg.  The music maintains a distinctly sci-fi aura that passes casually through spacey sequences, in between the rigorous dub & bass work outs presented at various point on the LP.  It is unfortunate that most of the free world has never heard of Marineville, however I highly suggest you do everything in your power to locate this CD. For fans of imprints like Waveform Records, who embrace earthen-toned beats with celestial leanings, Marineville would also fit nicely next to artists like Sounds from the Ground.  Key tracks that play with your mind are the tripped jazz & bass-matography of “Revolution” and “Modus Operendi”.  -Alkemist

MORCHEEBA - Fragments of Freedom - Sire/CD

Continuing in the spirit of growth & experimentation, both musically & lyrically, which made the live instrumentation of 1998’s Big Calm such a huge step forward artistically for Morcheeba, Fragments of Freedom throws 50 years of pop music history into the mixture & ignites it all off with a nod & a wink. From the retro-funk of “Rome wasn’t built in a day” to “Love Sweet Love”’s old school beats & breaks to “A Well Deserved Break”’s steel drums, Skye says it best when she coyly croons, “Rock & roll music’s a thing of the past, we blow up the spot & get caught in the blast.”

Fragments of Freedom‘s strengths, though, lie in its opening and closing tracks. Languid & sultry, layering Skye’s erotic turn of a phrase over the trademark ebb & flow the brothers Godfrey’s beats & ‘scapes, the hit single “World Lookin’ In” & the late night lament of “Fragments of Freedom” lay testament to the inherent beauty of Morcheeba. -martini

OKU ONUORA - Dubbin’ Away - ROIR/CD

Music for the new bloodless coup d’etat, blood clot where you brains at…with the victory still to come, the music is here now for the eventual rulah’, Jah Rastafari! From the strident militancy of Dubbin’ Away’s first track “Defiance,” a spoken call to conscientiousness, you know you are in for an education in the power of dub. The instruments on the second track “Dub Out” pick up the militant feel and from there the view to the revolution is nearly complete. This collection is from five different periods of Oku’s career; the earliest tracks coming from “Pressure Drop” released in 1983 and latest recorded between 95 & 97 and released on “A Movement.” The arrangements throughout are lush and full with bones, flutes and poetry anchoring the moment to memory. Track 13,  “ Ruff Dub” showcases the drum and bass work of Sly and Robbie in a natural dancehall way. Throughout Dubin’ Away you will find tight well-driven rhythms with words to match mission. –ahdub

OPEN CANVAS - Indumani - Waveform/CD

The second Waveform release from Gregory T. Kyryluk, who operates under the moniker, Open Canvas, continues his journey into an electronic world of live instrumentation & samples set to down tempo beats and lush soundscapes. This time Kyryluk focuses on honing a less ‘world beat’ palate, instead building a more cohesive Indo/Oriental vibe. In execution, though, indumani suffers from & excels beyond this limitation.       

Despite giving thanks to “the musicians thousands of miles away in India & the Middle East who inspire me”; the overall timbre of indumani is decidedly Oriental. Even though filled with live sitar & percussion in the opening track “Liquid Shiva”; Kyryluk’s long keyboard washes are sonically East Asian signatures and more than a taste of what’s to come. “Puja” & “Rajastan”, on the other hand, are able to retain a uniquely subcontinental feel with live tabla & percussion lines. Tracks like “Season of Monsoon”, “Electric Karma”, & “Spice Caravan” suffer from Kyryluk’s tendency to homogenize the cultural integrity of the source music, leaving the music in that nebulous zone somewhere between New Age cultural piracy and insular self-amusement.

Yet when all the pieces fall into place, as in “Agni” with its driving Asian breakbeat-like percussive force, haunting vocal sample, cheesy keyboard fills & trancelike breakdown section, Kyryluk hints at the heights his music can achieve. The muted grace of “Qjoparti”, in counterpoint, blends a 60’s pop sitar sound with a flowing was h of flute & Indo dance beats to fully realize the poet Rumi’s words, “I know you are tired/but come. This is the way.” -martini

RAS COMMAND - The Best of Serious Smokers - Waveform/CD

Hailing from Hanover, Germany Ras Command have taken the dub form to new highs finding nuance in the subtle minimalist approach that fits in the brain like a well-stoked fire.  Serious Smokers is a best of collection that showcases the past few years of recording from Alex Buchal and his Ras Command and Cee Mix incarnations. It also features support from DJ Blowpipe and Dirk Schumacher a couple serious dubheadz. These eleven blissful cuts will fit in nicely with Tikiman and the Burial Crew. Ripe with rhythm and enough turns to keep your ears in the room, this is a truly great disk with which to drown out the modern world. Ras Command and his Serious Smokers disk should find a home in heavy rotation on any deck ready to explore the outer reaches of the dub manifest destiny. The bass drops ala Robbie Bassspear with a nod to Sly on the skins, these are truly innovative creations uptempo rocksteady and downtempo lost my mind, but found my lighter just in time to light up another track. –ahdub


From the Spanish infused intro of,  “ How could I ” through the tight sparse one drop rhythm of “ Watch Your Step ” this is classic Roots Radics. Originally released in 1989 as a cassette this is the dub side of the Hot We Hot  offering which featured Bingy (Bunny), Dwight (Pickney, a.k.a. Brother Dee), and Flabba (Holt) on lead vocals. However, here we find them stripped down to dub essentials with Flabba doing some masterful talking on Bass. The Radics are the group that brought music to life backing Gregory Issacs, Sugar Minot, Culture, and the ever memorable Prince Far-I too name but a very few. In addition to musicians already mentioned, it also features Style Scott (Drums) and Earl Fitzsimmons (Keyboards). Recorded in Jamaica and mixed in D. C. together with Hot We Hot or on it’s own this is a crucial recording and should be a part of any blunt psyche. –ahdub

JEFF SHAREL - Jeff Sharel - Statra/CD

Jeff Sharel has one of those names that you’re sure you’ve heard before, but just can’t place it.  Known more for his world music-oriented remixes – he’s appeared on F-Communication’s Frikyiwa compilation, Evoka’s remix album, and has worked with Afrobeat star Femi Kuti – Jeff Sharel has at long last come into his own.  (Never mind that his downtempo jazz single “Tribute Final” blew up all over the place this summer.)  His eponymous debut album shows his jazz influences colonizing other musical forms, with astounding results.  “Hounza” and “Conte D’automne,” for instance, take on a contemplative, forlorn tone, while “Tribute Part Two” adds a funky slap bass into a house vibe.  More often than not, Sharel introduces an unmistakable African flavor to his rhythms and instrumentation without resorting to the old standbys of sampled chants and drum patterns.  After years of being in the background, Sharel rightfully deserves the spotlight for this complex and understated album.  –Viet

SLUMBERLAND - Episode Two Awake and Dreaming - Waveform/CD

Slumberland is the latest Waveform offering and first in the series of the same name. With healthy cuts full of subterranean space, sumptuous atmospherics and otherworld jams, this disc is ripe for the late night café or creative headburst. Canadian Tim Clement gets a side with the awesome, “Beautiful Lady” a rhythmic and disentombed spoken masterpiece. From German electronic pioneer Klaus Schulze we get the 18:33 opus, Druck. Recorded under the project name Karl Wahnfried and found on the Tonwelle album, it is a wonderfully eerie, sinuous and beguiling piece of music. Also featured are Eleven Shadows with Encino’s Ken Lee supplying us a rhythmic trip showcasing Judy Neubauer’s ghostly yet beautiful vocals, which contrasts nicely against deep bass stabs and outstanding hand percussion. Every cut is a study in meditation and tribute to deeper states of consciousness and beyond. -ahdub

SONEROS DE VERDAD - A Beuna Vista: Barrio de la Habana - Timba/EFA/CD

Please, not to be confused or lost in the onslaught of releases bearing some oblique reference to the now seminal release from Habana'a elder social club statesmen (yeah, that CD, but why sully a stunning disc by quoting the obvious), this is the sound of generations playing for the love of music, for the love of song, for the love of life. Featuring Tradicional Habana members Luis Frank (vocals & musical director), Manuel de la Cruz (guitar, co-musical director), and Ricardo Quevedo (bass) along with Afro-Cuban All-stars Juan de Marcos Gonzalez (tres, guitar), Daniel de Jese Ramos Alayo (trumpet), and Ricardo Munoz (bass), some of the hottest young singers and players in Cuban son music join son legends Pio Leyva, Manuel Licea and Jose Castanedaa to expand the boundaries of traditional Cuban music.

As both a history of and an ongoing journey into the heart of Cuban son, Barrio de la Habana, like the city itself, is, in the words of Luis Frank, "Full of music, tobacco and rum." And love. And soul.Yo quiero me lleven a Buenavista, ay a Buenavista.  -martini

SORMA - Mirage of the East - PMR/CD (Distributed by Allegro Corporation)

Take a moment an visualize the following image:   a musical fusion combining hypnotizing Asian and African chants with down tempo, chilled out, dreamy backbeats, rounded off by an enchanting balance of cross-cultural chimes and rhythmic percussion within a new-age styled circle.  This is what each track from Sorma’s latest CD entitled Mirage of The East will provide you with, a cerebrally stimulating transmigration shrine of sensory perception where neo-futurist ambient synthesis melts into Afro-Asian inspired rhythms.  This is the ideal album for relaxing the mind and body, as the listener is transported around a multi-cultural island of sounds as natural and free-spirited as the cultures that the ancestors of this musical endeavor .

The gentle breeze and flowing energy from opening tracks like “Gumbalo”, “Aouma”, and “Miyabi” offer insight into the collective minds who are the designers and soundsculpters that embody Sorma. Though the group’s line up has shifted, changed, and expanded since their inception in 1995, the quality of music and invention on Mirage of The East remains progressively intact and illuminates the most disciplined sensibilities and instinctual prowess achievable within a studio setting.  Subsequent tracks “Legend of the Spring”, “Mirage (Mantra Mix)”, “Holy Mountain”, and the spectacular “Ki-Zu-Na Orchestra Mix” define the intense inspirations that allow Sorma and their music such accessibility and embrace by ambient, New-Age, world/global fusion, and chill-out/down-tempo audiences.  –Brad Anderson

SPRING HEEL JACK - Disappeared - Thirsty Ear/CD

The form is less important than the process and the sound is paramount to the mission. It seems SHJ have forgone straight up d & b in favor of broader musical expression. Somewhere in the ether region of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Squarepusher and Panacea,  Disappeared attempts to find a voice and or succeeds. On past releases SHJ have lost me with indulgent horn charts or the lack there of. But now with the addition of a Rhodes scholar and a whole lot of introspection, my opinion may be swaying.   At the very least, if you thought they were great before you might think they are gods with this one. Whereas if you always thought they sucked, you may have your tri-fecta. The title cut will definitely deliver you to the land of Sun Ra and Chick Corea with a sax moog battle to rival the stoop wars of 1968. “To die a little” is definitely the stand out cut, sub-sonic bass, roomy trap kit and searching melody that says the 60’s were not that long ago or not long ago enough. –ahdub

TABLA BEAT SCIENCE - Tala Matrix - Palm Pictures/CD

Without question Palm Pictures continues to bring to light the most fantastic of releases in the global arena. This time about, in connection with Bill Laswell’s Axiom imprint, we are introduced to Tabla Beat Science’s Tala Matrix, an intensely charismatic compilation of producers and tabla players who foster and continue to develop the “tablatronics” ethos that reigns heavily in London, courtesy of Talvin Singh and many others.  A super group of visionaries such as Zakir Hussain, Ustad Sultan Khan, Talvin Singh, Trilok Gurtu, Karsh Kale, and Bill Laswell, Tabla Beat Science takes the listener on a mystical journey of enlightened appreciation of modern electronics expertly placed alongside ancient beauty of the tabla.  -Art

10 FT. GANJA PLANT - Hillside Airstrip - I Town/ROIR/CD

As the ROIR press release states, “10 Ft. Ganja Plant is basically a delightful anachronism.” Indeed, evoking the spirit and timbre of Bob Marley and the harmonies of the Heptones, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant has produced a modern document that stands up proudly to the history that is reggae music. Masterminded by producer, Craig Welsch and executed by notable Northeast singers and players, Hillside Airstrip is an awesome calling card. It is obvious from the recording, that Craig favors analog gear to get sounds to tape; the bass is fat and saturated, the horns and harmonies sound organically grown rather than digitally produced. The pure dub flavoring of  “Two Bulls” stands out and it glides beautifully into the Augustus Pablo tinged, “Walky Walk Tall” which will light your spliff if you hold to the speaker. There is a spring tour planned so keep your eyes wide and if you see John Browns Body playing drop in and you may get an impromptu set from 10 Ft. Ganja Plant.  -ahdub


What we have here is nonspecific Afro-Caribbean ear candy which goes down pretty easily, but might go down even more easily with a tropical drink or two in hand.   Voodoo Candy presents their songs in a very slick, synth-pop framework but with touches of ethno-authenticity, kind of like Dr. Alban.   One moment they’ve got the ragga thing going, later a calypso vibe, elsewhere the lilting African guitars.  Likeable enough, but if anything, it sometimes sounds as if Voodoo Candy is striving too hard to please.  Some songs sound tailor-made for a fake island paradise chain restaurant (Bahama Bar & Grill anyone?), another sounds like it belongs in a Disney movie, yet another could be the music in the next cute eToys commercial.

As a music critic, I try not to be an anti-pop snob, and this is admittedly some pretty catchy stuff.  But a couple of daiquiris or mai tais would definitely enhance the listening experience  -Brad Yost


The full title of this release is Yah Congo meet King Tubby & Professor at dub table.  Yah Congo was the name of the production company and record label owned by Glen Darby throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, he is also credited with production, arrangements, and fronting on the executive side. So involved, he is credited as an artist while the other two involved require no introduction. King Tubby and his electronic(s), how low can you go protégé, Professor man the console on this re-release. Originally recorded in Kingston at Channel One Studios between 1974 and 1979 and it was later mixed at King Tubby’s Studio. Tubby mixes the first 7 cuts while Professor takes on the chore for the last  5. Tubby prefers the more in your face highhat front and center approach, while Professor takes a more laid back,  bass heavy approach allowing organ to emphasize the mood. This is a fun release like looking into the brains of Moses to find his inspiration. Be sure to roll it into a phat vocal set with plenty of spring reverb.   -ahdub

ZERO ONE - Prototype2 - Waveform/CD

Prototype2 is full of trancey beats and other world soundscapes that serve to guide the listener into the netherworld realm of Northern California’s, Kevin Dooley. This, the second release from ZerO One finds Mr. Dooley upping the ante and resuming the trip to where technology and soul seek each other out. Soaring synth pads and poly-rhythmic percussion join at strange angles forming unions with hypnotic voices articulating the indescribable. A sampler calls out hazy commands as a bon fire rises from the desolate shores of some far away planet, the star ship slipping out of site, leaving you dancing like a field of lazy grain on a tranquil day. Masterful production pervades the proceedings, allowing the music to breathe from the mind to mind, in part and whole. It is my hope that we hear more as the mastery of form is very evident and quite simply dope. -ahdub 

ZION TRAIN - Love Revolutionaries - Universal Egg/CD

Though not the band’s latest output release, Love Revolutionaries is an electrified dub release that spans time and space and is deserved of written praise.   For anyone who follows the Zion Train groove, you will know that the collective (now Wales-based) incorporate the finest in beat production which edges into neo-dub & bass territory, while flirting with old school ragga mindsets and vivid spacey trance indicators.  Comprised of 12 tracks, Love Revolutionaries is a charisma-filled journey into space jah dub, as usual suspects Cod, Tench and Perch lay down the most seductive dub riddims to back the spotlight feminine vocal chants of Molara.  From opening tracks “Freedom,” “Building Rome,” “Flag” and “Movement of the People” to closers “Free Heart,” “War in Babylon,” “Rocker’s Revival” and “Dubzilla”, Zion Train traverses the rigorous dub terrain they have traveled so many times on their rise to grass-roots fame and worldly dub acclaim.  -DJ Huron

V/A - Earth Dance 2000 - Cyberoctave/CD

Now in its 4th year, Chris Dekker’s ambitious global campaign to raise funds and awareness for world peace, Earth Dance has been embraced by nearly the full spectrum of today’s underground dance culture. & since his core cause from the outset has been to raise awareness & support for Tibet, it has surged to the forefront in the consciousness raising effort for this beleaguered nation which clearly is one of the most impassioned injustices of this coming millennium. With past performances & live dj sets by the likes of Banco de Gaia, Doc Martin & Q-Burns & tracks donated by Fatboy Slim, Gus Gus & The Orb (to name only a few), support for Earth Dance continues to swell.

Earth Dance 2000 expands this tradition of offering dance tracks by the club world’s biggest acts alongside those just on the verge of breaking out. While featuring tracks by Underworld, Moby & Orbital, Earth Dance 2000 really scores with two unreleased Cold Cut remixes. Leading off with a stripped down mix of Groove Armada’s “At the River”, the duo’s instantly recognizable beats & bangs takes this beachside nod & drops it into the middle of the floor of The Boutique. Even more impressive, though, is their remix of Charlie Watts & Jim Keltner’s (yeah, it’s them…) “Elvin Suite.” At once ethereal & temporal, this track is a chant laced percussive foray into tribal rhythms & indigenous melodies. Evocatively simple & sweet, this may be the best pairing of percussionists & producers I’ve ever heard. Other tracks of note include the Fatboy Slimming of Lunatic Calm’s aggro-electro sample heavy funk fest “Roll the Dice” & Dekker’s own Medicine Drum’s “Rattlesnake,” proving trance can have a global milieu & a soul to boot.

Earth Dance 2000 closes with a special treat for us Boston heads, though. Local dj & current wunderkind, Steve Porter’s 8:30 hard trance mix “Mindless” is a study in beat building & hints at the sets he’s currently throwing down. Check out his sound for real if you aren’t in the know already. -martini

V/A - Environments: Volume 1 - Om Records/CD

Another day, another compilation. The questions: who (artists), what (genre?), where (label). Another day, another style. Nu-break, broken beat, 2-step. Another day, another voice. Radar, Skylight, Lelonex. So, you're left with another day where where is here: Om. Expansive, Adaptive, Resounding.

From Radar's scratch from base up which constructs seductively to Skylight's funk-faced tribal house of up, up, up, Om's new imprint Environments is a brave new world turning tempo atmospherics, a true world of experience and innovation. Breathe in. Breathe out. It's a manmade environment we live in. Revel in it.  -martini

V/A - LATIN BEATS: A Tribute to Tito Puente - Mr. Bongo/CD

This is the shit. Although originally meant as a showcase for the nearly 50 years Tito had spent at the forefront of the Latin music scene, with his passing earlier this year, this release was postponed & finally released as a tribute to the late, great El Ray, King of the Timbales. Spanning nearly 5 decades of Latin rhythms, from Tito’s early big band compositions to 90’s dance & funk, Latin Beats drops the bomb.

From Sabu Martinez’ “Hotel Alyssa Soussie,” the track which brought Latin Jazz to the dance floors, to Nuyorican Soul’s house classic “Nervous,” to tracks from Grammy winners Los Van Van, N.Y.C. disco from Louie Ramirez & my personal fave, Benny More’s intoxicating salsa romp “Babarabatiri,” Latin Beat pays musical host to the unending influence Tito’s rhythms have had on all Latin musicians from the 50’s through today’s beat grinding generation.    What more can I say?  Words do no justice to the rhythm & sound of a sensuous Latin groove. Just buy it. Just play it. Just live it. This is the sound of the world getting down.  -martini

V/A - Om Lounge 4 - Om Records/CD

On this fourth installment of the Om Lounge series, we see the fine folks at Om cultivating their own talent, rather than farming out to the “big names” of the international downtempo scene.  Sure, the first track is the gorgeous spoken-word “The Season” by Beanfield (remixed by Swag), but the bulk of the artists have released or are about to release full-lengths.  We get the beautiful acoustic-guitar driven “The Reason” by Soulstice and the musical levitation of “Sutro Heights” by Jaywalkers (better known as Om founder Afro-Mystik).   Andy Caldwell imports some fresh Brazilian flavor with his slow “Quiet Nights in Rio.”  The final track, Jazmin & Face’s “Flamenco Fusion,” veers into deep house territory, but make no mistake, this is an album for the head, not the feet, meant to be played on a warm summer’s eve, when the party moves onto the balcony.   Grab a martini and take your honey by the hand – things don’t get much more romantic.  –Viet

V/A - Style Scott Presents RAS Showcase - Lion&Roots/EFA/CD

An authentic oldschool showcase album which, in a twist, is actually a showcase for multi-instrumentalist Style Scott's long runnin', much respect due band Roots Radics. Featuring vintage RAS catalogue tracks from the likes of Israel Vibration, Yellowman & a decade old gem from da man known as Barrington Levy, this collection is more about the versatility and longevity of one of reggae music's premier backing bands than the vocalists in the RAS stable.

From the bouncy, buoyant dancehall riddims of "Wild Wild West" & "General" to the sinewy, throbbing basslines of roots anthems "Soldiers of Jah Army" & "Jah A the Creator", Roots Radics truly have RAS' real, authentic sound. This is the sound of devotion, to both the almighty Jah & the mighty, mighty herb. And in a true showcase style, each track is followed by its dub platter showcasing both the extent that producer, engineer Jim Fox had in the creation of the Roots Radics' sound but also dropping a couple of Mad Professor gems along the way.   Timeless, hypnotic, intoxicating. Praise Jah.  -martini