NEW LINE RECORDS
Well-traveled LA DJ/producer the Angel has been toiling away on multiple remix and soundtrack projects for years under her 60 Channels moniker (most notably scoring the movie Boiler Room). But now she's got a divine new name, her own label and a very nice album—a menagerie of chill-out-room funk and sweeping sonic vistas. Her movie-music expertise gives No Gravity a sense of grandeur that sets her work apart from the rest of the trip-hop and downtempo pack, painting broad soundstrokes over her hip-hop, dub, and European drum-and-bass (think Kruder & Dorfmeister) rhythms. The result is a cool, modern record full of beats, cuts, samples and loops produced and programmed in such a familiar, almost poppy style that it could very easily (but probably won't) be dug by people who don't listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic. Tre Hardson (of LA hip-hoppers the Pharcyde) launches the album with some idealistic positivity on "Make It Better," yet while his words uplift in their own simple way, it's the Angel's music that enhances them, crouching and leaping to some wonderful peaks. When soft-voiced Mystic sings over the tracks "Baltimore" and "Destiny," it calls to mind Massive Attack or the tons of potential Morcheeba never lived up to. "Strange Times" does ambient dub as effectively and subtly as the Orb do at their best, bubbling into a shimmering, psychedelic calm. Mostly, No Gravity is unobtrusive but groovy, slick but not stupid, and, to quote the immortal words of Flava Flav, "Cold chillin' in effect." (Michael Coyle)
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MASTERED THE ART
If Mexican DJ collective Nortec is the future sound of Tijuana, then San Diego's Greyboy is the future sound of Southern California hipsters. Greyboy (Andreas Stevens on his birth certificate) spins a film noir mix of hip-hop, Latin-groove vibraphones and acoustic guitars packed with a tough, streetwise punch, which makes Mastered—his first album since the five-year-old Land of the Lost—sound like Henry Mancini, Starsky & Hutch and Dr. Dre fleeing to Mexico in a sexy old Cadillac. Credit in part the patter of MC Main Flow, who details the fast, tough life of a G on several Mastered tracks. Too bad he didn't have the entire length of the CD to state his case, but that's all right because what could have been a collection of merely competent rhymes has instead been made extraordinary by Greyboy's criminally smooth production skills. His mixes have been made exotic by the light, almost funky vibes of Latin jazz vet Dave Pike and the sometimes bluesy, sometimes flamenco-inflected guitar work of Elgin Park. Then again, Greyboy's mystery is pretty down-home. It's nothing less than a trip through SoCal's new folkways—the back-alley bravado of a low-rider hot rod, the high gloss of the film industry, the Tower of Babel culture-mixing and even a little hippie self-reflection. Mastered the Art is also more evidence 2001 may end up being the year that stellar indie music exploded again in San Diego, what with the fractured pop of the Incredible Moses Leroy and the outlaw country of the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. (What have indie meccas like Silver Lake done for new music lately? Thought so.) San Diego and Tijuana producing great music? What's next? Stanton? (Andrew Asch)
PUPPETS OF CASTRO
PUPPETS OF CASTRO
I change my mind about this album every time I listen to it. At first, the songs seemed good but didn't flow together and were too poppy, and those sung by Andrew Lorand sounded annoyingly like They Might Be Giants. But I'm a longtime fan of the Puppets' other singer, Matthew Niblock, so I kept listening, and subsequent go-rounds revealed a lot of depth. There's "Mr. Smith," a gentle rebuke of fire-and-brimstone evangelism done up in a light gospel style. There's the melancholy "Extraordinary Things," written in the persona of an elderly man reflecting on his accomplishments and failures and the dreams that drove them. It's an achingly beautiful, delicate song, though it gets easily lost following a wacky novelty number like "Girls Like That," about failing to impress the hot chicks who hang out at the Blue Cafe. So about 20 listens in, I can confidently say I enjoy this CD, at least as witty, intelligent pop. But with one caveat: I can't accept that a record with the cool title of Puppets of Castro doesn't take at least one quiet, reflective moment to investigate the capitalist-imperialist dogs running around Washington, D.C. Where's the anarchy? Where's the politics? Where's the friggin' revolution? (Victor D. Infante)