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Various Artists National Vinyl Association

Label: Avatar

Even though it's the heavyhitters-Mos Def, Blackmoon, Jurassic 5-that are gonna sell this badboy compilation, it's the deeper underground that smashes up the place. On "Classical Hit," Phil da Agony and Planet Asia, both in top form, deliver heavy verbal bombast over a thoroughly catchy beat, as the female hookstress croons, "getting passionate with some ol' classical shit." Ras Kass, another Cali vet, blazes a straight-up lyrical slugfest along a gritty, gothic piano loop on "Verbal Murder"-minimal underground militancy like the good ol' days. Read more » 

Silicon Scally Mr. Machine

Label: SCSI-AV

Electronic music stealth-bomber Carl Finlow (an underappreciated man of many aliases and genres), here unleashes yet more quality classics of the distinctly electro variety. With a weighty discography behind him, both home listeners and dancefloor revelers can indulge themselves in his ever-building and patiently layered string-saturated world. Finlow conbines encouraging visions of light on "Non Functional" with gritty gobs of gorgeous intensity on "Magnified"-to create a solid hour of classic music, without relying on cashing-in guest MCs or cooing she-elves. Read more » 

Jan Jelinek Avec The Exposures La Nouvelle Pauvrete

Label: ~scape

Easily the most lighthearted release of Jan Jelinek's illustrious career, La Nouvelle Pauvret? finds the German producer breathing life into dub-techno's emaciated frame. Here, the Berliner lifts his scalpel away from soulful black forms, choosing instead to carve up a chunk of white rock history. Narcotic melodies take precedence throughout, mixed high above Jelinek's typically click-ridden ambience. Read more » 

GFS Mount Vernon Street

Label: Sound Gizmo

Drum & bass has found its funk. And it's about time-Philly-based duo GFS have crashed through the (now-fading) stereotype of dark, serious and self-involved tech-step by bringing back a much-needed sense of playfulness. Liquid funk drips from the basslines, nicely balancing the crisp snares and throbbing kick drums and it's all topped off with some spacey sound effects and acidic synth lines. By enlisting the help of a few friends-dubbed the GFS "Allstars" and playing bass, Fender Rhodes, sax, violin and guitar-GFS have created an impossibly funky, tripped-out and enjoyable debut album. Read more » 

Rob Dougan Furious Angels

Label: Reprise

Dougan and his 122-piece orchestra choir are best listened to on the run. If your life lacks grandiose chase scenes, a jog around the block will do, so long as you're maintaining heightened endorphin levels. Maybe it's because his most famous track, "Clubbed To Death," has been soundtracked to death, most notably on "The Matrix," but Dougan's downtempo epics do seem most suited for those cinematic "special moments": the thwarted rescue, the nail-biting climax, the triumphant return of the hero. Read more » 

Swell Session vs. Ernesto Let Me Decide

Label: Hollow

Don't overlook this collaboration between Swedish producer Andreas Saag (Swell Session) and vocalist Jonatan Bäckelie (Ernesto's) amid the flood of piss-poor white labels that will rain down on Miami's Winter Music Conference. "Let Me Decide" enters with two minutes of staccato beats before dousing you in clever, distorted Rhodes chords and Bäckelie's aching appeals. Add this to the growing list of broken beat-cum-house vocal tracks that stick like birch sap to your ears. Read more » 

What Kind of Sound? The First Release On Unis1

Label: Unis1

Dopey title aside, Chris McCormack (a.k.a. avant-technoist UK Gold) shows impressive range here as WKOS. From the dense electronic dub of "Sound and Rhythm" to the richly complex techno of "The Pylon Symphony" and the organic ambience of "Klea," McCormack offers a creatively burning vision of next. Read more » 

Ralph Dog Afflictions

Label: Bomb Hip-Hop

Despite the highly questionable album art, which features emcee Ralph Dog behind bars as well as a bunch of Polaroids of a really busted dominatrix, I approached Afflictions with an open mind. After all, San Francisco's Bomb Hip-Hop has released some classic records, such as the hugely influential Return Of The DJ series. Unfortunately, their latest fails to measure up to the imprint's reputation. Featuring what can only be described as mediocre production by Cherok and rhymes from the self-confessed "antichrist of hip-hop," Ralph's sadist schtick gets old quickly. Read more » 

The Roots Feat. Jill Scott Complexity

Label: MCA

Coming off of their recent album, Phrenology, the 5th Dynasty comes through with one more classic jam for the books. "Complexity" is not your ordinary girly-gurl joint, but a mature groove with careful lyrics spat by the great Black Thought himself. Read more » 

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