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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
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The Further Adventures Of Lord Quas
Stones Throw

The title says it all — The Further Adventures of Lord Quas finds producer Madlib back in the basement lab for another go-round with his helium-voiced alter ego, Quasimoto. If the album cover is to be believed, Lord Quas is something like a cross between Alf and Winnie the Pooh, but with a nasty streak ("I run around town scalpin' old folks with butter knifes") and a serious weakness for weed.

Of course, all of this was established on Quasimoto's debut, The Unseen. But like any sequel worth its salt, Further Adventures lives by the philosophy, "The same, only more so" — twice the skits (the album is essentially one long skit; Prince Paul has a lot to answer for), twice the Cheech and Chong routine, twice the Melvin Van Peebles. (A third Quas record seems somewhat unlikely, if only because there can't possibly be that many Van Peebles songs left for Madlib to sample.) There's also twice the doo-doo jokes ("Brother blew my bathroom up tryin' to get relief/ He didn't know I run my toilet paper on poison ivy leaf"), a dismaying development, but maybe not surprising from a guy who visually quotes Zappa on his album cover.

If only it had twice the funk, then we might be getting somewhere. But although the Loop Digga comes up with a sick one every now and then — the choppy flutes and cop-show theme music of "Raw Deal," the smooth soul of "Bus Ride" — you can barely get your head-nod on before Van Peebles' Reverend Willie is in your face asking for spare change. Madlib's constant digressions, interruptions and little sonic jokes may make for an immersive listening experience, but The Further Adventures of Lord Quas demands pretty strict attention, and what it gives back in return is only sporadically satisfying. The album struggles under layers of fuzz and static that seemed forgivable on The Unseen, which was reportedly recorded for fun and not originally intended for release. On Further Adventures, the aggressive lo-fi just seems to keep a beat like "Fatbacks" or "1994" from hitting as hard as it should.

The biggest exception is "Closer," a new collaboration with MF Doom, Madlib's partner on last year's brilliant Madvillainy. (In a way, this latest album would be a lot better off if Madvillainy never existed — it oozes originality in a way that makes Further Adventures sound like Madlib running in place.) Over a psych-rock sample that would fit right in on Edan's Beauty and the Beat, MF Doom proposes that he's "part of a new race/ Chrome face/ 24-7 stay screwface/ Play home base" before passing the mic to Quas. It's one of the only tracks on the album that Madlib allows to feel like a finished song; instead of stopping things cold, an outburst from hipster comedian Lord Buckley just serves as a quick jolt to the senses before the beat kicks back in. "The Clown" features probably the best verse from Quas, though, including a line that bizarrely seems to reference an old Connect Four television ad: "Contact/ Pretty sneaky, sis/ She takes photos with the twins/ Pretty freaky, sis."

But for every highlight, the album has more than its share of stop-start, musically jarring tracks like "Another Demo Tape," or rote Van Peebles remakes like "Hydrant Game." "Raw Addict Pt. 2" sounds well- worn even when you're hearing it for the first time — wow, Madlib likes to buy a lot of records? Who knew? Still, "Players of the Game" finds some fresh material when 'Lib drops the mask for a minute and lays out his view of the rap chessboard: "Goin' wood in the hood or gettin' Grammys/ Comin' like Neptunes or Prince Jammy/ Bein' yourself, sounding the same/ It's all part of the game." One thing Madlib can't be accused of is not being himself, and although that leads into some self-indulgent corners on The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, the game would be a lot duller without him.

by Dave Renard

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