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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
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Beauty And The Beat
Lewis Recordings

"To a black and white scene I bring the purple tangerine," Edan boasted on his debut, 2002's Primitive Plus. Turns out he was one album early — where Primitive was a rough and rugged, funny and frantic lo-fi tribute to the old school, Beauty and the Beat rains down bushels of psychedelic citrus like it grows on trees.

Edan isn't the first hip-hop producer to jock the Count Five along with the Funky 4+1 — Diplo and DJ Shadow spring to mind — but he might be the first whose album sounds like it was recorded direct-to-reel in the Chocolate Watchband's garage. Fans of Madlib's smoked-out style (especially "Strange Ways" from Madvillainy) definitely won't feel out of place exploring Edan's musty, staticky soundscapes, constructed from raw early-'90s drum loops and dirrty Nuggets-style rock samples, along with smatterings of soul, jazz and classical. Doesn't sound like rocket science on paper, but Beauty and the Beat is one of the freshest-sounding albums in ages from an indie-rap scene that often can feel more stagnant than the machine-tooled major-label stuff it's rebelling against.

What really puts the album over the top is the way Edan manages to twist the DNA of two distinctly throwback styles, '60s psych-rock and '80s golden-age hip-hop, into a 2005 mutant plaid platypus. ("Edan concentrating on put Syd Barrett face on Biz Markie body and Kool G Rap brain," reads a recent entry in his, um, illuminating biography.) His rhymes have ditched most of the gonzo Ween-meets-Eminem tactics that dotted Primitive Plus — "I jerk off in my cereal/ You couldn't even fuck with the grand imperial" — but Edan's nasal syllable gymnastics still deliver a high PPM (punchlines per minute) and run circles around MCs whose idea of a complicated rhyme scheme is having 16 straight lines end with "bitch."

As an illustration of Edan's sonic evolution, hold up Beauty's "Making Planets," a collaboration with Mr. Lif, next to "Rapperfection," their team-up from Primitive Plus. "Rapperfection" reinvented battle rap from scratch in mom's basement, with Edan and Lif rhyming over the concussive blasts of an 808 gone way into the red. On "Making Planets" the music is much more subtle — a loping bass line for Edan's verse, chiming rhythm guitars and backwards loops for Lif's, with the two segments connected by the kind of amateur musique concrete that zonked-out garage bands would record in one 3 a.m. take to burn the last of their studio time.

Guest spots are relatively scarce here, but Lif, Insight and Dagha have no problem getting amped on even the most off-kilter beats; not that avant-garde chin-stroking is always something to be sneered at, but tracks like "Rock and Roll" with Dagha have enough manic energy to lay flat a dozen Anticons and Anti-Pops (while still sounding mad weird). Killing it on "Torture Chamber" is Percee-P, a big shot in Edan's personal pantheon of fast-rap legends, who was last seen making "Your ho hafta go afta her weave from the breeze as I blow past ya" on "A Day at the Races," the only great song from Jurassic 5's Power in Numbers.

In his "death of hip-hop" screed "Telegram," Saul Williams offers the prescription of replacing weed supplies with magic mushrooms to help MCs see past their reality. Edan does him one better: "I use pens like hallu-cin-o-gens ... the notes on the page become ants that run frantic." Put Beauty and the Beat in hip-hop's water supply and there'd be, like, no more beef, man ...

by Dave Renard

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