New Sounds

Bigga Bush Bigga Bush Free (Stereo Deluxe)

With Rockers Hi Fi idle, Glen “Bigga” Bush was left to ply his
big basslines and chunky breakbeats on his own. Drawing from influences as
diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and Ennio Morricone and musical styles from dub to
Brazilified rhythms, Bush’s material isn’t just wide-ranging;
it’s sort of weird, too. And it’s his capacity to shift gears so
quickly and effectively that makes Bigga Bush Free so engaging.

With a cache of cutesy, descending xylophone melodies, tracks like
“Outernational Anthem” fuse Latin influenced jazz and dancehall
reggae into something all its own. Interrupting that natural flow is the
robotic and spacy electro of “Acid Fly,” complete with a
crackling old-school Star Trek phaser sample. That dirty vibe continues
through “Deep Eastwood,” a cinematic, percussion-laden homage to
master composer Morricone. Bush’s big bad bass takes over on more
low-key tunes like “Sole Sister” and “Mouseflex” and
he gets more atmospheric on “Bigga Beat Box.” Rounded out by
vocal support from Sofia Thom on the plucky and jazzy “This
River,” it’s an album with main room, chill room and living room
all in mind. SSSS —Yuri Wuensch

Bob Dylan Live 1964 (Concert at Philharmonic
Hall) (Columbia/Legacy)

“I’m wearing my Bob Dylan mask,” jokes Bob Dylan at one
point during his Halloween-night 1964 concert at Philharmonic Hall, newly
issued by Columbia Records as Volume 6 in their “Bootleg Series”
of key live Dylan performances. But the fresh-faced, 23-year-old Dylan we
hear on this wonderful double-disc set is Dylan at his most accessible, his
least bitter, his most boyishly charismatic, his least inscrutable, his most
unmasked. It’s Dylan a few months after Another Side of Bob Dylan and a
few months before Don’t Look Back—a time when the hardcore
folkies in the audience were still mostly on his side, “It’s
Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was so new he was still calling
it “It’s Alright, Ma, It’s Life and Life Only” and
“Gates of Eden” could be cheekily introduced as “A
Sacrilegious Lullaby in D-Minor.”

Aside from those new tunes, it’s obvious that everyone in
Philharmonic Hall that night already knew the material by heart—which
is a good thing, since Dylan, in one of the disc’s most likable
moments, blanks on the opening line to “I Don’t Believe You (She
Acts Like We Never Have Met)” and bashfully asks the crowd to refresh
his memory. The mutual affection between Dylan and the crowd is palpable, not
just in the laughter you hear during comic numbers like “Talkin’
John Birch Paranoid Blues” and “Talkin’ World War III
Blues” but the hush that falls over the hall when Dylan gets going on
dense epics like “Gates of Eden” or “A Hard Rain’s
A-Gonna Fall.” I could do without the duets Dylan performs late in the
concert with Joan Baez—she really drags down his energy on earnest,
obvious numbers like “With God on Our Side”—but otherwise,
Live 1964 is a perfectly timed reminder that Dylan wasn’t always the
corpselike troubadour you can now see leering at lingerie models on those
creepy TV commercials. He actually used to be cute! SSSSs —Paul

Elf Power Walking With the Beggar Boys (Orange

For about a decade, Elf Power has been one of the granola set’s cult
acts of choice. Despite an ever-revolving lineup, the Athens, Georgia group
has managed to inject just enough rock into their country/roots sound to earn
comparisons to the likes of early R.E.M. and modern-day Wilco.

The band’s latest effort, though, places the emphasis far more on
rock than country; even though the title track features a guest vocal from
Vic Chesnutt and tells a rather dour tale of poor Polish children, it
features a southern boogie back-end that would make Lynyrd Skynyrd proud.
Yes, Elf Power is still an awfully serious band: “Never Believe”
and “Invisible Men” sees the band attacking its favourite
conservative targets, from ad men to the media, but it’s all done in a
boogie style that’d make you think you’d stumbled onto a
’70s southern-rock revival rather than anything that could ever be
categorized as “alt-country.”

If “Heavy Metal Drummer” is your favourite Wilco song, if you
think that nothing R.E.M. has done in 20 years can ever compare to
“Radio Free Europe” or if you rate the Old 97’s as one of
your favourite bands, then do your best to hunt down this disc. SSSs
—Steven Sandor

Soulfly Prophecy (Roadrunner/Universal)

If there is an album that will shake the nü-metal world in 2004,
it’s Soulfly’s latest. Fans of deep-throated, low-tuned guitar
rock won’t be shocked because the band, inspired by their time spent
recording in Serbia, has decided to tone down the Latin influence on their
music (although they have)—no, the shock is the major gear change in
their entire philosophy.

For the most part, the samba percussion that acted as the foundation for
the Brazilian/American act has been replaced by a distinctly Byzantine
flavour; local musicians have brought Balkan elements to augment the
band’s punishing guitar style. But anything the band does musically on
this record takes a back seat to the lyrics. Soulfly, a band that once opened
for Slayer, has gone Christian metal. It’s hard to find a song on
Prophecy that doesn’t glorify God, praise angels or call for a new age
of Christianity. “I Believe” is singer Max Cavalera’s
declaration of faith—“You can’t kill faith, you can’t
kill God,” he screams. On “Moses,” Cavalera prays for a new
spiritual leader and on “Wings,” he declares that angels are
protecting the righteous.

Yes, all things Christian are awful hot right now. But Soulfly is asking a
lot of their fans with Prophecy, and the jury is out on whether the world is
ready for a nü-metal Stryper. S —Steven Sandor

Sixtoo Chewing on Glass and Other Miracle Cures
(Ninja Tune)

Prolific Anticon vet, Halifax hip-hop refugee and now Montreal-dweller
Sixtoo has rolled out yet another dark, moody and instrumental-heavy
hip-hop-minded album. While this may not sound that different from earlier
work like Duration or Antagonist Survival Kit, Sixtoo has a card up his
sleeve on this one: this time, the samples are live.

Working with the likes of Norsola and Thierry of Godspeed You! Black
Emperor and Damo Suzuki, Sixtoo has discovered how sweet organic
instrumentation can be. The sinister sounds of Chewing on Glass feel almost
like a film noir soundtrack crossed with electronic music—the
accompaniment to some unreleased dystopian cyberpunk feature. Even the guitar
in “Chainsaw Buffet” is transformed into a dark, strumming sound
set against a subdued beat and punctuated by drums. It’s easy to forget
that every instrument in this warped soundscape is sampled.

The few lyrics on the disc keep up the dark imagery, but the music is
really the focus of this release. While Chewing on Glass might move Sixtoo
away from the performer’s spotlight and into a shadowier role as the
surgical producer, slicing and dicing sounds into place, it’s a part he
was born to play. SSSS —James Elford

Various Artists Tree of Satta: Volume 1 (Blood
and Fire)

Anyone who’s ever said electronic music is too repetitive will be
right on the money with the dub instrumentals on Tree of Satta: Volume 1.
Aside from cosmetic tweaks, everything on the latest from Blood and Fire uses
the same lazy beat and sad saxophone sample from the Abyssinians’ 1969
reggae anthem “Satta Massa Gana,” which kicks off this
compilation of tributes from some of reggae’s best. It’s the
variety of vocal riffs that keeps the whole thing fresh.

Like a non-cheesy version of Shaggy, Anthony B lends a Rastafarian styling
to the tune on “Good and Bad.” Bernard Collins’s bluesy
delivery is a great complement to the lyrics about disease, slavery and
black-on-black violence on “Satta Me/No Born Yah” and his more
upbeat take on “Satta Don.” A reggae who’s who fills out
the remainder with work from Lloyd Charmers Prince Far I, Channel One’s
Dillinger, Tony Tuff and more. Tree of Satta’s roots definitely run
deep. SSSs —Yuri Wuensch

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