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Review: Elephant Man Higher Level

Label: Greensleeves

"Unhappy is the land in need of heroes." And nowhere is Brecht's maxim more apt than Jamaica, a part of the "Third World" seen only as a vacation spot by most Americans. Seaview Gardens, one of Kingston's most downpressed ghettos, is where Elephant Man began doing studio work in the early '90s. Over a decade later, this hyper manic vocalist with an uncontrived eccentric personality is a Jamaican hero, and his popularity has expanded on a global scale. Read more » 

Review: Matthew Shipp Equilibrium

Label: Thirsty Ear

Pianist Matthew Shipp began his exploration of avant-garde jazz fused with electronic funk on last year's Nu Bop, and on Equilibrium, he finds a perfect balancing point between his jagged jazz and blasting hip-hop beats. The talented players behind Shipp spin off in every direction on "Vamp to Vibe" while he holds it down with a smashing left-hand figure. It takes until "Cohesion," four tracks in, for Shipp to tear the roof off, but when he does, it's in fine style. Read more » 

Review: Freaks The Man Who Lived Underground

Label: Music For Freaks

"The Man Who Lived Underground" has a name. It's Weaver, and he's a poor electronics fix-it man drunk with insolent nostalgia who decries modern "upgrades" from his dingy urban catacombs. That's the concept, anyway, via which Freaks Luke Solomon and Justin Harris revolt against dance industry vapidity and set stage for their curiously catchy production. Wrought with machinery effects and amusing audio theater, the tech-house on "The Man Who..." excels through episodes of bleepy motorized tension, plump dirty bass, and chaotic funk. Read more » 

Review: Various Artists EP Family Gadgets EP

Label: Statra

On this diverse comp from Brooklyn's prolific Statra, you get Alexi Delano's techy, bass-driven jam "Afro Science," Bluelight's densely noisy house kick "The Connection," newcomer Microlife's string-laden minimal epic "Dub Teeth" and Chris J.'s spaciously dubby "Automaten." What else ya want-blood? Read more » 

Review: King Solomon Solstice EP

Label: Illmindmuzik

Ohio-to-SF transplant King Solomon gets down for his crown on this one. Drop the needle anywhere for warm beats by Fat Jon and PremeOhio and confident rhymes from a seasoned veteran. "Fine Thin Line" should be "Fine Fat Lines" and "Lyrical Substance" provides just that. All hail the king. Read more » 

Review: Various Artists Atitetoca

Label: Hi Top

Oh, old school, you hit it right. Original mambo, Afro-Cuban, and other assorted Latin smokers from such pioneers as Willie Bobo and Israel "Cachao" Lopez inspire saucy high heels and unbuttoned collars that stay crisp despite the ever-escalating, hipswaying heat. Aspiring congueros should note the immaculate trombones of Mon Rivera and the Caribbean-flavored pungency of El Super Tumbao's "Bacalo Salao." The classic "Lluvia con Nieve," performed succulently by Rivera, sizzles at the edges. Wipe your mouth, throw your napkin on the table, and find yourself a dance partner. Read more » 

Review: Bill Laswell Sacred System Dub Chamber 4: Book of Exit

Label: ROIR

Oh, Bill Laswell. So much to answer for. He's loved. He's hated. Lately it seems, mostly the latter. Why? Mostly, for what's seen as a prolific output combined with a lack of quality control. But then, ask yourself who else has collaborated with Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Def and, erm, Whitney Houston? Read more » 

Review: Bobby Hughes Combination Nhu Golden Era

Label: Stereo Deluxe

Nhu Golden Era, the second album by Norwegian producer Espen Horne, feels like a warm, smooth lounge record for the modern cocktail-swilling groovemeister. God knows the world doesn't need yet another "lounge" record (a.k.a. generic coffeehouse jazzy downtempo crap) but luckily, the Bobby Hughes Combination has come up with enough innovation and musical talent to buck the usual blandness. Barely. Read more » 

Review: Blaktroniks This is Your Drug on Brains

Label: Reflective

Oakland's Edd Dee Pee and Coppa Tone usher in their next chapter with this bit of shimmering, broken thump. "That's My Word" posits a minimal, Afro-futurist manifesto over deep chords and percussion, while the flip's "Face It" technofies things a bit and "Safari" reconfigures drum & bass from dub's bullrushes. This is simply the next phase. Read more » 

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