New Music

VARIOUS ARTISTS
DUBLAB PRESENTS: FREEWAYS
EMPEROR NORTON

The hype over Internet radio, like everything else dot-com, would have been gladly forgotten by now if a few lone indie stations like dublab.com hadn't actually lived up to their promise. But dublab went beyond the hype. The Hollywood station follows no playlist, and on the way to spinning the best eclectica—everything from jungle to Cuban field music to surf rock to Stevie Wonder—they've given LA's neglected underground-techno and fringe-DJ scenes a much-needed forum. But if your Internet connection is lousy, the next best thing is dublab's first CD of original music postings. Freeways captures some of the best of this elusive culture: the peaceful reveries of ambient/acoustic dudes Languis & Fer Chloca, the chaotic be-bop-meets-hip-hop energy of Yesterday's New Quintet (a.k.a. Quasimoto/Madlib), and the apocalyptic drone of Mia Doi Todd. There are some clunkers, too. Surprisingly, John Tejada, a pioneer of LA's techno/ambient

movement, contributed a track that can only be described as dull. A couple of other selections fall into the typical indie trap of trying too hard to be avant-garde—just a slippery step from the worst sort of fusion. But let us not whine about dublab's few failures. While most radio stations—Internet or otherwise—merely threaten to play cutting-edge sounds, dublab consistently plays chicken with poor finances to deliver the most elegant, hard-to-find music this side of a National Public Radio pledge drive. Let's hope they stay that way. (Andrew Asch)

AIR
10,000 HZ LEGEND
ASTRALWERKS

10,000 HZ Legend bears absolutely no resemblance to Air's smooth, modern-lounge debut, Moon Safari.

The French duo have traded the sexy for the cerebral (and sometimes the silly) and the analog for the digital. While it's jarring if you've been a fan, they pull off this move with confidence that makes for a beautiful, grandiose, daring album, one that magnifies the tricks and traps of electronic music and, to a lesser degree, the electronic world. Take "How Does It Make You Feel," a love song with quiet, pretty arrangements sung by a Macintosh computer. It comes off funny, creepily endearing and entirely unmusical, yet the song as a whole is still compelling enough to warrant a second spin or five. "Radio #1" brings in some of their older keyboard setups (or, more likely, computers mimicking keyboards) to drone away incessantly whilst sculpting a triumphant jingle out of the chorus: "If you need some fun/Some good stereo gum/Radio #1." Special guest Beck sings—forlorn and sincere—over blips and acoustic guitars on "The Vagabond," an aural formula Air use well and often to create old/new juxtapositions. "Lucky and Unhappy," "People In the City" and the sweet, screeching riff that compliments "Don't Be Light" come off as despondent and world-weary as anything Thom York has moaned of late; the quiet, experimental nature of 10,000 HZ Legend means that Kid A comparisons will be plentiful. Still, this is a glass of ice water compared to Kid A's liquid nitrogen vibe—alienated, but not alienating. It's almost as epic, though, and you can feel it wants to be (and probably would be if there was a legend to be told, or at least a more concrete theme). Even when the album stumbles, it still feels like it's moving forward. Bon voyage, Air: we can't wait until you reach the other side. (Michael Coyle)

 
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