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Various Artists Being Black: A Musical Companion

Label: Waxploitation-Spun

What is blackness? Brooklyn activist (and Zen priest) Angel Kyodo Williams already tried to answer that eternal question in a book fronting the same name as this compelling journey into the hip-hop multiverse. But sound works much better on the senses, dig? With a little help from heavyweights like Blackalicious, Rob Swift, Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, DJ Spooky and more, Being Black is a journey through the soul of expropriated agency, at once rump-shaking and mind-expanding. And there's not a bling-blinger or a ghetto fab in sight. Looks like the evening news got it all wrong, right? Read more » 

Visionary vs. Division One Global Clash

Label: Nice + Smooth

Ragga-tinged jungle the way you like it-dark and driving vocalistic bass and drum pressure. From chopped-Amen loops to torrential snare downpours, from sinewy electricity to creepy atmospherics, from warm, familiar ragga samples to chatty nu kids Kid Rasta and MC Friendly, all these pulse with large, lurking bass, keeping the jungle fire lit. MC P hosts and narrates as Visionary and Division One go two for two-that is, until a strange drum & bossa tune ends things. It sounds like London but it's actually Detroit-raise a fist for the D, this is proper tuffness! Read more » 

Via Tania Under a Different Sky

Label: Chocolate Industries

Tania May-Bowers knows how you spent those lonely nights: curled up on the floor, flickers of street light invading your room, and your ex's Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star records spinning endlessly. The last time it happened to Tania, she transformed herself into Via Tania, in which guise she writes ethereal dirges like a depressed female Sam Prekop. Under a Different Sky has a few surprises in store, including two dangerously off-kilter collaborations with Prefuse 73, who walks the narrow line between his cutup beats and Tania's gauzy vocals like a nervous new suitor. Read more » 

The Majesticons Beauty Party

Label: Big Dada

The Empire truly strikes back with the second part of Mike Ladd's Infesticons vs. Majesticons trilogy of albums for Big Dada. After the Infesticons' force for good rumbled the Majesticons' machinations on part one, Gun Hill Rd, the Majestic ones have changed tack, and exchanged ostentatious bling for the more cloaked and sinister forms of corporate collaboration and co-opting of the old money Trusticons. Mike Ladd is a genius of sorts, and he and his band of talented MCs drop this pantomime of irony with unerring accuracy. Read more » 

The Notwist Neon Golden

Label: Domino

You know that bespectacled music snob friend of yours who hoards Guinean post-punk reissues and frequently derides your music purchases as plebeian retrogressions? Read more » 

Various Artists The Fire This Time

Label: Hidden Art

Here's a relative anomaly for electronic music-a compilation with both a conscience and a detailed tale to tell. The future fate of the Iraqi people is a troubling subject that gets swept under the rug in the mass media. The Fire This Time is a detailed narrative of the genocidal damage done under US sanctions since the elder Bush's Gulf War set to an electronic soundtrack. A second disc provides just the music without the narration and story, with highlights from Orbital, Aphex Twin and Tom Middleton's Amba project. Read more » 

Sonna Smile and the World Smiles With You

Label: Temporary Residence

Sonna are unquestionably one of America's most interesting instrumental rock ensembles. While much of the world's attention has remained fixed on Tortoise and Canada's Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Sonna have quietly realized their own gentle melodic dialect. On their second album, the quartet's harmonic guitar lattices support Jim Reid's always spacious and multi-accented drumming in the same way that Art Blakey's round-the-kit flourishes guided the The Jazz Messengers' horn soloists. Read more » 

Konstantin Raudive The Voices of the Dead

Label: Sub Rosa

I can take spiders, gore, psychological thrillers, no problem. But when it comes to ghosts, set to the ponderously spooky Sub Rosa vibe? Read more » 

Sole Selling Live Water

Label: Anticon

I'm so torn. Torn between great production and monotonous lyrics whether above or below ground. Torn by scathing, crunkin' funk held down by lyrical gangsta-pop. And torn here by looming, compelling rhythms held down by obtuse emo-spittle showers. Sole, the unofficial Anticon leader, tears me up with lyrical exercises in self-reflexive futility-though sometimes delightfully eccentric, his strained whine becomes wearing. Read more » 

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