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Review: King Britt Adventures in Lo-Fi

Label: BBE

King Britt rescues the suffering Beat Generation series with this stellar record. Featuring a plethora of Philadelphia's finest emcees, poets and songbirds, the king of Philly house music gets back to his hip-hop roots. "Smoothed out" describes a lot of it, but it's not cheesy-it's sublime. From Quasimoto's helium-gas lyrics to Bahamadia's buttery flow, the rappers all come correct and the production shines, especially on the spoken-word tracks by Rich Medina. Illadelph brethren represent lovely on "Rise and Vibe" featuring Dice Raw and "Caught Out There" featuring Capitol A. Read more » 

Review: Spacek Vintage Hi-Tech

Label: !K7

It seems the Courvoisier r&b that used to be the purview of our older, more normal siblings' bedroom missions has now become our downtime soundtrack. Spacek are a London trio on their sophomore release, providing an angular and unexpected work of neo-soul-that focuses on the neo. "Life is like a bassline," Steve Spacek sings (almost whispers, really) in songs both knowing and personal. The beats (by Spacek, Morgan Zarate and Edmund Cavill) are deceptively minimal-seemingly simple, yet rewarding subsequent listens with unexpected sound design and a decidedly non-retro approach to arrangement. Read more » 

Review: Embedded Unsealed Archives

Label: Embedded Music

In which NYC gritmeisters Ese and Hipsta roll us three that didn't make the cut of their Bedford Files comp. The grime and urban blues are here throughout, but put aside Hangar 18's nondescript rhyme at the ladies and the Vast Aire/LoDeck/Tes/Breez Evahflowin' posse cut for RJD2's mix of Vast's "Tippin Dominos." We're talkin' tinny acid-rock guitars repeatedly whooshed into the vortex. Whoa. Read more » 

Review: Various Artists Too Hot for Solid Steel

Label: DJs On Strike

Is Too Hot For Solid Steel the ultimate mash-up, or the ultimate DJ-culture political statement? It would be easy to argue both points, but there's something much more gleeful going on here.

On a basic level, Too Hot is a fine example of mash-up-that curiously broad music genre where bits of a recognizable nostalgic pop song are mixed with an equally recognizable dance beat to form an ironic concoction; i.e. a Nirvana hit mixed over a Run DMC drum sample.


Review: DJ JS-1 Ground Material

Label: Yosumi

In a world of many mediocre hip-hop compilations and producer albums featuring a million guest emcees, this album really stands out from the rest. Don't let the horrendous cover design fool ya-this LP is action-packed front to back. Underground stars (Ill Bill, Royce 5'9", Evidence) and Golden Era legends (Special Ed, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace) bless the microphone, and JS-1 comes with nothing but solid production with the help of partner Dub-L. Read more » 

Review: Various Artists It's a Berlin Thing Vol. 2

Label: Dangerous Drums

If the first volume of this series from last year didn't put the world on notice about Berlin hometown's exploding beat culture, this 30-track double-CD will leave no doubt that the city's truly on fire. Though Dangerous Drum's focus since it's '01 birth has ostensibly been on uptempo breakbeat, It's a Berlin Thing Vol. Read more » 

Review: Four Tet Rounds

Label: Domino

If some artists make "bedroom" music, Kieran Hebden's is gloriously, unequivocally "outdoors" music. His pastoral Pause was summertime incarnate, hazily ripe and warm "folktronica." Rounds sees Four Tet again creating beauties that are at once densely swarming and breathtakingly expansive as it sets out for journeys across windy bridges by foot. It's a far more dynamic album, with chimes and leaves and scraps of static scuttling along the ground, getting swept into tiny, dizzying vortexes. Much of Rounds feels a shift in cycles, a change of seasons in the air. Read more » 

Review: Lee Fields Problems

Label: Soul Fire

I've considered Lee Fields's "I'm the Man" to be one of the finest pieces of new-school funk for years, and finally it's on an album, surrounded by songs of equal quality. Comparisons to James Brown are inevitable given Lee's vocal style, but Problems is much more than an attempt to ape the Godfather. The production is perfect for this material, full of grit and open spaces, and-perhaps with a nod to future samplers-there are open drumbreaks galore. Read more » 

Review: Souls of Mischief Spark

Label: Chocolate Industries

I'm a Souls of Mischief fan, so I automatically raise the bar on quality. "Spark," to me, is a good song-nice head-bob beat and the rhymes are cool, but sound compromising. These guys are better than what they portray on this record. I would suggest they listen to the Politics of the Business album and re-record their material. Read more » 

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