Embrace the Chaos
During Ozomatli's set outside the Democratic National Convention last July, the LAPD attacked the crowd. The melee that ensued clearly inspired the band's second CD, Embrace the Chaos, which is filled with street sounds from that ill-fated concert edited in throughout the songs (the lyrics of which sound increasingly militant as the disc progresses). But despite the similar context and CD artwork—Ozomatli's spray-painted logo on a concrete wall, snapshots of various band members being chased by the police—Embrace the Chaos is no Battle of Los Angeles. The band wisely kicks off the disc with "Pa' Lante" (short for "Para Adelante," which translates roughly as "keep on moving forward"), an infectiously danceable song reminiscent of '60s-era protest music. Increasingly, Ozomatli sounds like a 21st-century version of the late, great Cuban jazz/funk/folk ensemble Grupo Experimental Sonora del ICAIC. But the band's best, most original material lies in their unique blend of horn-driven Latin grooves and urban hip-hop. Two back-to-back jams in particular, "1234" and "Vocal Artillery," are brilliant, featuring the lyrical skills of De la Soul and Medusa with Kanetic Source. Both tunes are about the funkiest shit to come out of SoCal since, well, Ozomatli's debut album. If this music is the soundtrack to the coming apocalypse, then bring it on. (Nick Schou)
Sword of God
Touch and Go
No one else makes as much of his misery as Sam Coomes. You almost want to put him down—an act of mercy generally reserved for old dogs—but he appears to enjoy airing his grievances as much as we enjoy eavesdropping on them. So we let him live. As always, Quasi's song titles read like slogans you might find on black T-shirts in a divey punk shop: "Fuck Hollywood," "A Case of No Way Out," "Nothing Nowhere"—stuff Nietzsche might have worn, if he'd bothered wearing anything. Like Nietzsche's twisted tales, Coomes' world (a "cardboard panorama in an empty void") is scattered with all sorts of human refuse—drug-dazed Argonauts and whining nafs, Barbary apes and corporate puppets. He eviscerates them one by one with his patented postmodern cocktail of bile and sarcastic wit. As the album's title suggests, there are only three tracks in which some loser isn't getting lopped off at the knees—and two of them are instrumentals. The other, "Goblins and Trolls," is Coomes' plea to a loved one for refuge from the demons that populate his weary world, a rare moment of softness. We've come to expect these dour parables and the thick fuzz of keyboards, guitar and Janet Weiss' drums that grumbles and throbs underneath them. There are no surprises there either (even birds make their trademark appearance at the start of the title track), though several songs are a bit more melancholy and melodic than usual. But don't let that fool you. Sword of God is the condemnation of a culture 21 months into the decade of the double-zero. (Kristin Fiore)
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