Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Label: Virgin Records

Anyone looking to point the finger at the folks responsible for igniting the “trip-hop” revolution, should know to aim it at Massive Attack. Ever since their seminal 1991 album entitled “Blue Lines,” the British (mostly Bristol) community has been continually redefining what we call “dance music.” Trip-hop’s fusion of dub and soul, mixed with heavy electronic beats, has become a genre unto itself, spawning the critical and commercial successes of former Massive Attacker Tricky, and darker bands like Portishead, Esthero and Statik Sound System.

Massive Attack’s 1995 effort “Protection” was both quieter and less original than its predecessor, but still combined the band’s trademark deep beats with the vocals contributions from Shara Nelson, Horace Andy and others. On “Mezzanine” the band reaches deeper into their brooding grove laden hat, employing Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser on vocals as well as staples Shara Nelson and Horace Andy.

This is a considerably darker album than anything they have done before. On the one hand this is a good thing, I like the downbeat mood set by something this intricately produced. But on the other hand there is a certain richness and joy that seems so intentionally excluded.
For longtime fans of Massive Attack, “Mezzanine” is a record filled with a whole lot of dark eerie soul. At the risk of misrepresenting the texture and feel of this album, I would argue that Massive Attack probe deeper into the core of dance music than anyone has in a while. This is definitely mood music, just make sure you play it to compliment a darker mood.

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James Brown – In The Jungle Groove

James Brown - In The Jungle Groove
Label: PolyGram

This is without question the single fiercest funk record I’ve ever heard. We all realize and acknowledge the importance of James Brown in the evolution of funk and soul through the decades, and more recently with rap. However, these tracks recorded from February 1970 through August 1971, and officially released in 1986, quite possibly could be his most important contribution.

In The Jungle Groove harnesses a raw and awe inspiring power that very rarely occurs. Perhaps it was the collective that backed the Godfather that helped these sessions become what thet were. The collective I’m referring to included but was not limited to Bootsy Collins on bass, Maceo Parker on sax, Fred Wesley on trombone, and Clyde Stubblefield on drums, all of whom are excellent musicans in their own right. Perhaps it was the cultural dynamic that reigned supreme at that time. Nothing like juxtaposing a love of life and reckless abandon to help inspire greatness. Perhaps it was just one of those transcendental moments for the ages. Thankfully we’ve got a record of the events which we can play over and over again.

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Lionrock – City Delirious

Lionrock - City Delirious
Label: Concrete / Time Bomb

Long live eclecticism. Long live Lionrock.

Lionrock is an alter-ego of progressive house DJ Justin Robertson. He was responsible for one of 1996’s best house mix cds CD Scape which was part of the Journeys By DJ series. Like with most DJs, each alias allows a DJ to explore different avenues and different concepts that are busy swirling in their heads. Lionrock happens to be the truly eclectic alias.

Lionrock creates true sonic collages incorporating elements of progressive house (naturally), ska, electro, reggae, dub, techno, electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk or Can, and even a bit of surf. The only odd thing about this mix is that is works. Not only does it work, I believe Justin has managed to create a truly infectious and highly original sound.

Feel the futuristic vibe with tracks like “Electric Hairdo”, “City Delirious”, “Best Foot Forward”, “Rock Steady Romance”, “She’s On The Train”, and “Wet Roads Glisten”.

Long live amalgamation. Long live Lionrock.

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The Last Days of Disco

The Last Days of Disco

Director : Whit Stillman
With : Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard

“The Last Days of Disco” Whit Stillman has finally solidified his seat next to David Mamet as one of the best writers of cinema dialogue that we have today. Not unlike his early masterpieces “Metropolitan,” which focuses on a Debutante season in New York, and “Barcelona” which follows American expats living in Spain, “The Last Days of Disco” offers only the slightest trace of a plot: recent Hampshire and Harvard college grads spend their evenings in the early 80’s going to a disco loosely based on Studio 54. The film is actually the final installment in Stillman’s “Nightlife” trilogy, documenting the way three unique groups of people spend their respective evenings.

Supported by an incredible cast including Chloe Sevigny (Kids, Trees Lounge), Kate Beckinsale (Cold Comfort Farm), Chris Eigeman (Metropolitan, Kicking and Screaming) and Matt Keeslar (Run For The Country, The Deli), Stillman does a remarkably convincing job of tapping into the thoughts of these people, during this specific time in this distinct place. He is able to do so without the inevitable glitz and over-the-top retroism of most films set during this period (specifically the impending Miramax offering “Studio 54″).

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Scrawl – Nature Film

Scrawl - Nature Film
Label: Elektra

Old timers will tell you that they saw the first incarnation of Scrawl way back in 1985. I was only a sophomore in high school living just a few hours north of where the historic first shows were allegedly taking place in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, this unpretentious trio has been cranking out a record every three years. After a series of record label disasters, during which time Scrawl’s records were swept away by the momentum of bankruptcy (in the case of Rough Trade). The band made the jump to Elektra hoping to feel the effects of a major radio promotion department, instead the record came out and then rapidly disappeared. Maybe it was because the record didn’t really represent what the band was all about, becoming harder and less melodic than their previous records.

The real beauty of Scrawl has always been their combination of sweet acoustic-based tunes and straight forward proto-punk anthems. Unlike the guitar and scream laden music of bland girl bands like Veruca Salt, Scrawl are able to successfully walk the line between straight noise and playful pop.

“Nature Film” is a whimsical collection of remastered old favorites (“Charles” and “Rot”) and a few new tunes, which helps the band to redeem itself after their underwhelming major label debut, “Travel On Rider.” Produced by indie stalwart Tim O’Heir, “Nature Film” is an album that showcases both the band’s gentle pop sensibilities on new songs such as “Don’t Always Get There” and “Nature Film,” while shifting gears towards Scrawl’s trademark brand of melodic punk. Much of what has always made Scrawl so catchy is the ability of singer Marcy Mays to infuse her strong sexy vocals into a harder, rougher rock exterior.

This album might never reach the masses like Veruca Salt’s “Seether” single, but then again, who cares. Scrawl are a band who write good songs, tour every once in a while and have a loyal fan base. I suppose it’s possible Elektra can make MTV look and listen to this band, but even if they don’t “Nature Film” is the comeback record Scrawl fans have been waiting for.

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