AUTOMATONDub Terror Exhaust
TRUTH-IN-RECORD-titling. No one'll accuse bassist/producer/Renaissance Renegade Bill Laswell of taking the easy way out after hearing this uncompromising excursion into dub. Four lengthy numbers allow Laswell, Gabe Katz and The Alchemist--with "beats" credited to reggae maestro Sly Dunbar--to stretch the genre's limits beyond what even current aficionados of Ambient Dub might find comforting. Some notes are so low you practically turn around to see who's poking your kidneys with a rubber lance. When you hear something, as opposed to feel it, it's an echo of an echo. Vocal samples whoosh by like distant, unsettling murmurs from a half-remembered nightmare. Snatches of percussion ping-pong 'n' pan across the black hole of the stereo spectrum. Mmmmm...
MARISA MONTERose and Charcoal
BRAZILIAN MUSIC HAS always been best conveyed by the country's female singers, from Carmen Miranda in the '40s and Astrud Gilberto's "The Girl From Ipanema" 20 years later to contemporary post-bossa nova divas like Marisa Monte.
Unlike some Brazilian musicians surfacing stateside, Monte has refused to dilute or compromise her music by abandoning the instruments native to her country. Rose and Charcoal, produced by ex-Lounge Lizard guitarist Arto Lindsay, is a lot sexier and more passionate than the latest Madonna--even when sung by Monte in Portuguese.
JOANNE SHENANDOAHOnce In A Red Moon
3 Stars Each
SHENANDOAH OPENED WOODSTOCK '94 with the unity-plea song "America." Appropriate--her supple voice and passionate delivery recalls another Woodstock vet, Joan Baez.
The Red Moon disc contains that adult-contemporary pop-rock tune. Better are the more eclectic, folkier numbers, like the spry fiddle-guitar waltz "In The Middle Of The Road," or the mournful, atmospheric "Spirit Lingers On."
Life Blood is notable not only for its subtly haunting musical arrangements (thanks to collaborator/producer Peter Kater, bassist Tony Levin and others), but for the fact that Shenandoah sings these nine social dances in her native Iroquois. In fact, I'll rank this higher than the recent Robbie Robertson project.
MARIO BAUZA & THE AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA944 Columbus
NO WONDER THIS got a Grammy nomination for "Best Latin Jazz Performance" this year. The gamut here is from a very spirited, hot arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia" to "an Afro fantasy about old Yoruba fraternities in Cuba," to a bolero in the most romantic style. Graciela and Rudy Calzado, longtime singers with Bauza, sound both seasoned and incredibly young and vibrant. The band has that indefinable looseness in spirit that only those who are totally secure in their music can manifest. The magic of the music of this culture is real.
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