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 Matwychuk Elf Power Walking With the
Beggar Boys (Orange Twin) 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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