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February 01, 2000 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-02-01

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8 -The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 1, 2000



Language a thing of
beauty and beats

If there was a group whose work
most embodied a musical equivalent to
film noir, it would have to be
Morphine. Even their name conjures
up feelings of pain, darkness and end-
less sleep. Ironically, the powerful anal-
gesic could not help Mark Sandman,
front man to the Morphine trio, as he
fell to his death on-stage in Italy last
year from a sudden heart attack.
At just 46, Sandman was a gifted
artist with fierce writing skills.
Through a deep voice somewhere
between Tom Waits and Leonard
Cohen, Sandman's unique lyrics were
low, moody and acerbically dark.
Stripped of traditional instrumentation,
Morphine's music offered an alterna-
tive to guitar-driven rock often heavily
distorted beyond musical boundaries.
After five album releases over seven
years, the band had no plans to stop
They were like the odd child of the
family. A
Grade: C+ trio that popular-
ized their dis-
Morphine tinctive sound
The Night without a gui-
Dreamworks tarist in their
lineup. Add to it
Reviewed by simple, dark,
Daily Arts Writer provocative
Gautam Baksi lyrics, a jazz-
trained saxo-
phonist and drummer, and presto:
Morphine. Those lucky enough to see
them perform live tell stories of
Sandman's bass strings hanging so
loosely from the neck of his guitar that
you could hear them hit the frets. Tune
it low; then go one step lower. That's
about as high as it gets on "The Night"
Although it is being released post-

mortemly, the album was completed
and mastered by Sandman before his
death. In his own words, it was to be
Morphine's "new direction."
The CD opens with the jazzy title
track, "The Night." While smooth and
soothing to the senses, the song fails to
adequately captivate the listener's ears.
During the verses, attention is diverted
from the music and the traditionally
effervescent lyrics are absent, replaced
by less enticing, less flavorful refrains.
Track two, "So Many Ways," tries to
make up for the inadequate title track
with a salsa/meringue feel and allu-
sions to the devil. However, all three of
the first tracks fall victim to an inade-
quately constructed orchestration of
music and lyrics.
In contrast, the very'tasty "Top
Floor, Bottom Buzzer" and "A
Good Woman is Hard to Find" are
throwbacks to Morphine's earlier
fine work. Sandman's lyrics are
marvelously monotonous with a
decidedly confident tone in his
voice: "She was a helluva woman
from a helluva town / She took me
all the way, it was a long way
down." In both songs, Sandman's
throbbing bass and Bill Conway's
subtle snare are rhythmically very
Although "The Night" contrasts
from earlier releases, each of
Morphine's songs still has a certain
character and ambiance to it. They con-
jure up feelings of a small, dark club
with thick layers of cigar and cigarette
smoke permeating the air while sip-
ping at a Negro Modella (or Merlot, for
wine lovers). These three musicians
still lay down one phat, palm-sweating
groove after another. That's Morphine.
No sing-alongs, no big solos, no fancy

The first four bars of Joe Claussell's
"Language" album start off much like
any other house record - with a famil-
iar 4/4 kick hi-hat pattern. The next bar
explodes into a multi-layered conga
groove and mix of bird noises, bass
lines, strings and guitar chords. The
rich organic sounds and undeniable
groove explain why Claussell and the
Ibadan imprint have become such an
influential force in dance music.
Jerome Sydenham's Ibadan label is
renowned in dance music circles for its
rich output of organic house music that
combines world music influences and
the more conventional elements of New
York house and garage. Together with

effects. On some songs, even no
The concluding track on "The
Night," aptly titled, "Take Me With
You," is somber, slow and very
moving. As the viola and cello
crescendo, Mark Sandman's final,
persevering lyrics on the album
fade slowly into the background:
"Take me with you when you go /
Don't leave me alone / I can't live
without you / Take me with you..."
For anyone who didn't know Mark
Sandman, the lyrics to this and other
Morphine albums would point to a
man lacking a certain joie-de-vivre.
But that was his style. And that style
was the heart and soul behind the
sound of Morphine.
Although "The Night" is a wel-
come addition to a music market

saturated with over-produced,
under-talented artists, Morphine's
greatest albums were 1993's "Cure
for Pain" and 1995's "Yes." These
CD's captured the witty, sensual
essence of Sandman's vocals while
surrounding them by equally strik-
ing saxophone work from Dana
Colley. For those who've never
heard Morphine's prior work, "The
Night" will be a welcome addition
bound to spend plenty of time spin-
ning in the CD player. But for fans
of Morphine awaiting a new break-
through direction, the album is
somewhat disappointing.
Regardless, in honor of the late
Mark Sandman, it is perhaps most
fitting to follow his own words
when judging this last album: "Let
the music speak for itself"

Grade: 8+
Joe Claussell
Ibadan US
Reviewed by
Joshua Taaffe
For the Daily

Claussell's own
Spiritual Life
Music, these two
labels have spear-
headed a move-
ment which has
live instrumenta-
tion, organic
African influ-
ences and more

traditional notions of musicality into a
genre previously dominated by sam-
ples, loops and electronic instruments.
While this doesn't discredit the merit of
the wealth of incredible material made
using the old framework, it has broad-
ened the aural and emotional palette of
house music and taken the ever-mutat-
ing form in a new direction. Claussell is
one of the pioneers of this sound and
one of the most accomplished produc-
ers --this album only serves to reinforce
his reputation.
The second track "Git Wa" is charac-
terized by the distinctive notes of Jay
Collins' bamboo flute meandering over
the percussion and bass groove. As the
track progresses, Collins' playing
becomes more animated and is empha-
sized by the subtle introduction of
rhythm guitar and keyboard strings.
The mood shifts from placid to celebra-
"Marco Polo" is at once jazzy and
tribal with bass-guitar licks and the
intricate rhythmic interaction of grand
piano keys with smatterings of percus-
sion. "Kryptic Elements" is one of the
stand-out tracks. It begins with rolling
tribal percussion, which is soon punctu-

ated by a forceful bass drum. United,
these two elements build towards the
introduction of wallowing upright bass
and moody violin notes courtesy of
Miri Ben-Ari. The violin gradually
gathers energy and intensity firing o
startling patterns of short chords. Offs
against the fluid bass, the fiddle-like
sounds generate a remarkable uplifting
"Gbedu" demonstrates the influence
of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti (responsi-
ble for the afro-beat genre) matching
closely his distinctive sound. The track
is defined by the absence of bass
drums, these being replaced by trap
drums which leaves the bass line much
more noticeable. "Gbedu" winds alone
mixing electric guitar chords with the
melting notes of a Fender Rhodes,
occasionally punctuated by a saxo-
phone blare.
Earlier last year, Ibadan released an
instrumental promo of the track "Je Ka
Jo." I loved the track then and the
inclusion of a vocal version on the
album had me equally excited. The
track itself doesn't disappoint with its
sensuous bass line, soaring Lati@
vocal, emotive cellos, delicate guitar
and sparing use of violins. "Je Ka Jo"
is plaintive, soulful and drenched with
Joe Claussell has put together an
album that goes beyond pop hooks
and shallow rock conventions.
"Language" is an album with lasting
appeal and significance: it looks
beyond national boundaries and
draws influence from a global must
cal community. The result is a ric
and varied array of sound with an
equal focus on groove and emotional
significance - spiritual life music.

Goldie mixes drum n' bass

Rather than attempt to be as innovative as past
albums, Goldie takes a retrospective look back at
the short history of drum 'n' bass' dark side on
"The Incredible Sound of Drum 'n' Bass." Unlike

Grade: B
The Incredible
Sound of Drum
n' Bass
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Jason Birchmeier

the hypnotic sounds of LTJ
Bukem or the funky sounds
of Aphrodite, Goldie spins
some of the most menacing
classics from the past decade.
Listeners unfamiliar with the
history of drum 'n' bass will
get schooled while seasoned
listeners will surely enjoy
hearing timeless tracks such
as J Majik's "Your Sound"
mixed with more recent clas-
sics like Grooverider's

"Rainbows of Colour."
Since most DJs will usually focus on the latest
records, Goldie's choice to pull acknowledged
classics from his record crates is actually a bit
refreshing. The lack of unfamiliar material may
frustrate some, but these listeners need to under-
stand Goldie's motives. The man with the golden
teeth isn't trying to impress us with knack for
finding new sounds. Instead, Goldie's celebrating
the genre's past, dropping one after another track
that has defined the genre.
Keep in mind that Goldie's audio-documentary
on the history of drum 'n' bass is subjective and
undoubtedly biased towards the dark side of the
genre. In fact, a large proportion of the 26 tracks
Goldie drops come from the camp of drum 'n'
bass producers centered around the Metalheadz

record label. The Metalheadz tracks like
Optical's "To Shape the Future" and the tracks
originally released on the pioneering Reinforced
label such as Doc Scott's "Here Come the
Drums" all share similar musical attributes.
These tracks represent the dark side of drum
'n' bass characterized by an intense tone, a sense
of paranoia, frantic tempos and pummeling beats.
The opening track on the album, Doc Scott's
"Here Come The Drums," summarizes the sound
it helped foster as one of the first major drum 'n'
bass tracks. Influenced by the sound of hardcore
techno that dominated the UK in the early '90s, it
opens with a lingering ambient atmosphere of
foreboding synths. After several seconds, a hail-
storm of wicked percussion crashes through this
ambient aura, bringing plenty of chaos and inten-
sity with it. Basslines roll slowly to establish a
sense of rhythm dynamically juxtaposed by the
frantic amalgam of assembled breakbeats.
Many of these tracks also feature almost sub-
liminal inhuman sounds hidden beneath the over-
shadowing wall of percussion and rumbling
basslines. For example, on Digital's "Space
Funk" a strange buzzing sound hovers in the
foreground, sounding like a distant electronic
rainstorm or a swarm of malicious insects. Deep
Blue's "Thursday" features a sampled female
voice uttering "get away" throughout the song
while Codename John's "The Warning" has a
voice proclaiming "This is the warning."
The ideologically disturbing formal features of
this music function rather well, invoking an aura
of haunted bliss - the sound of paranoia. Not only

Former Michigander
fills debut with passion.

do these artists understand how to tap into the
emotions of the listener, but they also understand
the art of affecting the senses. There is no escap-
ing the overwhelming rhythms that pollute these
tracks. If the high-frequency percussion loops
don't mesmerize listeners, then the low-frequency
basslines will.
In sum, one may argue that Goldie's track
selection is predictable and that his mixing may
not flow as seamlessly as it should, but one can-
not argue against the quality of the chosen tracks.
There is no better representation of drum 'n'
bass' dark side than this album. Goldie may not
show us the future of music like he did in 1995
on "Timeless," but he effectively shows us the
past capable of doubling as a textbook on this

Cole Guerra's freshman album
entitled "All This and More," which
was produced and distributed by the
artist's fledgling label, Not Funny
Records, arrived on the shelves of
Ann Arbor's record stores on
Guerra, a singer-songwriter origi-
nally from the Detroit Metro area,
composed and sang many of the
songs contained therein for his wife
of five years. Learning this piece of
information previous to actually
hearing the album in its entirety,
one forms an acute predilection for
his music. It is nice to know before-
hand that Guerra wrote and pro-
duced his album not for distant pro-

Wu member cooks up tight hip hop stew

Raekwon's new cd,
"Immobilarity," comes with some
pretty high expectations. His solo
debut, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,"
was a masterpiece of East Coast hip-
hop. Taking his inspiration from
gangster movies like "The
Godfather" and "Scarface,"
Raekwon turned the Wu-Tang Clan
into, a Mafia family, renaming him-
self Lou Diamonds in the process.
Backed by the RZA's jarring, minor-
key string and synthesizer arrange-

ments, Raekwon
Grade: B-
Loud Records
For the Daily
By Andrew Eder

detailed the ghetto
lifestyle with
frightening real-
ism. Cuban Linx
started a whole
new trend of rap-
pers taking
Italian nicknames
and imitating the
Like "Cuban
"Immobilarity" is
modeled on and

album, it does not measure up to the
"Cuban Linx" standard due to two
notable absences: The RZA and
Ghostface Killah. Although the
tracks sound similar to those on the
RZA-produced "Cuban Linx," he
does not appear on "Immobliarity."
Instead, Raekwon employs a variety
of different producers. The result is
a less cohesive album with much
more filler than "Cuban Linx."
Ghostface Killah is also conspicu-
ously absent from the album (no
doubt busy with his own new release,
"Supreme Clientele"). He appeared
on all but three of the tracks on
"Cuban Linx" and his spastic, ener-
getic style blended perfectly with
Raekwon's staccato flow. Ghost's
presence took much of the lyrical
burden off of Raekwon's shoulders
and made "Cuban Linx" a team
effort. "Immobilarity" is Raekwon's
show. "Cuban Linx" was the product
of a crime family; "Immobilarity" is
the product of a Don.
It is also the product of one of the

Cole Guerra
Grade: B+
All This and More
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Joshua Pederson

importance. It lends a certain hon-
esty to his cause.
Hearing his music only confirms
the honesty suggested by its inspira-
tion. "All This and More" possesses
a coarse purity of spirit that elevates
its content. Guerra's gravelly voice,
unconventional lyrics and strong
instrumentals are rendered beautiful
by the dynamic passion that backs
Guerra's acoustic guitar riffs
anchor the majority of his music,
both to its credit and to its detri-
ment. They form a strong founda-
tion and a steady rudder for the
meticulously crafted lyrics that are

duction compa-
nies with
respect to cur-
rent industry
trends, but for
the woman with
whom he chose
to spend his life.
This fact brings
his as-of-yet
unheard mes-
sage truth and

surely the album's strongest selling
point. Furthermore, Guerra's voice
seems tonally similar to that of his
instrument, making his guitar more
an essential partner in a beautiful
duet than just an accompanyin
accouterment. These attribute
come to a head in the album's most
impressive tracks, "My Glass
Mountain" and "Latent."
However, because of the extraor-
dinary blending that occurs between
vocalist and instrument, one occa-
sionally loses some of the excep-
tional lyrics that might have been.
saved by a more scrupulous produc
tion job. Also, because of the gui-
tar's prominence in the music's
development, one might feel tha
one has missed out on some of the
other instrumental possibilities at
which the album hints. "Mars" and
"From There To Here" present tan-
talizing piano introductions that end
all too soon.
But when one gets down to the col-
lection's core, these minor observa-
tions become less important. After
seriously listening to "All This An$*
More," the technical vicissitudes o1
Guerra's music fall away, leaving the.
listener alone with the honest passion
of a remarkable songwriter.

New Breakina Records

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