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February 15, 2002

++ The New New Sounds Of Spring

++ Here in San Francisco, it's been hard to remember recently that it's only February — last weekend our weather was so warm I spent most of the daylight hours perched on my back patio, soaking up rays while I squinted into my laptop screen. So yeah, it's a rude awakening now that the rains have set in again. But Punxsutawney Phil (no relation) be damned, there's another harbinger of spring afoot: the new releases are beginning to pick up again, and just around the corner there are plenty of soulful, sunny vibes to tide you over until the frosts subside and the fog burns off.

++ Brazilian Beats 3: No, I'm not sure that yet another Brazilian house compilation is necessary, but it seems like the genre's here to stay; and if you're looking to shore up your collection of slinky, Afro-Latin grooves, you could do worse than to choose anything off London's Mr. Bongo. Founded in London as an importer and retail outlet for South American records, the label has gone on to release Brazilian classics, rarities and brand new productions. Brazilian Beats 3 runs the gamut from traditional, percussion-only cuts (like Guem's exhilarating "Riacho") to synth-heavy hybrids. The record opens with the slightly Paxil-ated audio tourism of Ive Mendes' "A Beira Mar," but the compilation improves as soon as it lets up on the four-to-the-floor. Malena's "Para Ti" is a stomping, Batacuda workout with an infectious chorus, while Jairzinha Oliveira's "Disritmia" presents something I've never heard in Brazilian electronic music before, overlaying a feathery acoustic guitar line with jiggy beats that sound straight out of Timbaland's studio. The comp's strong point is its vocals, heady, drunken choruses much livelier than you typically hear on the dime-a-dozen collection of generic South Americanized grooves. Seu Jorge's almost Gospel-influenced "Chega No Swing," for instance, wouldn't sound out of place on David Byrne's Luaka Bop. Muito bom!

++ DJ Spinna: I'm not always a fan of Shadow's repackaging of previously released material, but they've done better recently by commissioning top-shelf DJs to tackle the back catalogs of seminal dance labels. In this installment, DJ Spinna takes on Chicago's Guidance Recordings, for a mix of deep, deep, deep house heavy on Brazilian rhythms and Afrobeat. Guidance's eclectic roster allows Spinna to range free and far, from Chuck Perkins' bleak "Jazz Funeral" to Iz + Diz' bodylockin' "Down 4 U" to Dubtribe Sound System's "El Regalo de Amor," a precursor to Yellow's Africanism series. Other standouts include Mutabaruka's "Dis Poem '99," an unlikely collaboration between the dub poet and Joe Claussell and Boyd Jarvis, and Jazzanova's and Ursula Rucker's stealthy groover "Circe." One for fans of Spiritual Life Music and Body and Soul.

++ Solemusic: The West London-centered style known as broken beat has often been hard to come by Stateside, especially in CD form. Glasgow's Solemusic label promises to fill the gap in March when they begin distributing their albums domestically, beginning with two compilations, Phuture Sole and Sole Beats One. Phuture Sole is a collection of leftfield house and uptempo funk and soul — heavy on the slap bass, Rhodes and divas — courtesy of producers like Bugz in the Attic, Ne-Grove, Homecookin' (AKA Seiji from the Bugz crew), Tate's Place (with the fantastic track "Burnin'," reworked by Jazzanova on their remix album), and even the Trüby Trio. Sole Beats One, in contrast, slows things down to a languorous hip-hop tempo on cuts from Silent Poets (remixed by Mighty Bop), Phil Asher, Benny Blanko, Black Science Orchestra, and DJ Spinna. Spinna's "Funktakuda" is a lush Afrobeat-influenced nodder, and Pablo's "Supersweet" is a patchwork of crisp breakbeats and rainy-day disco. Later in the spring Solemusic will release Homecookin's brilliant Do What You Wanna, one of broken beat's standout artist albums.

++ Worship Recordings: It would be hard to find a genre of dance music that hasn't been touched by the hand of dub, but Philadelphia's Worship Recordings is dedicated to exploring the fusion of dub reggae and deep house in a way that few artists have attempted: heavy on both roots reggae and house throb. Due in April, Worship's inaugural compilation, mixed by label co-founder Rob Paine, offers a tightly knotted mix of tracks from artists like Rocket (Grayhound's Garth and Eric James), Solomonic Sound (Paine and Worship partner Zach Eberz), Kidz on Christian Street (Paine and ex-Wamdue Chris Udoh), Divine Conception (Paine again!), and even the eclectic Swede Håkan Lidbo, who seems to have dabbled in just about every dance genre there is. His "Trinity," a rousing, rollicking joint overlaid with ragga toasting — just begging for a two-step remix — exemplifies the Worship style, heaving with bass and freckled with congas and cowbells. DJ chatter, stabbing minor-key chords and chicka-boom rhythms abound.

++ Earl Zinger: Lord knows how !K7 will market this oddball project from Earl Zinger, AKA Rob Gallagher from Acid Jazz veterans Galliano. One part Prince Paul and one part Weird Al, with beats that nod to early Tom Waits and the Ethiopiques albums, it's a trainspotter's delight — not for the samples but the subject matter. Atop an organ-heavy reggae grind, Zinger skewers dance music's shibboleths on tracks like "Last of the Great Bassline Hunters" and "Escape from Ibiza." It's not all a pisstake — the album's peppered with mournful little interludes like the oddly titled "Did They Write on You." But parody is most certainly in the house: taking aim at '80s revivalism, Zinger's recently released a 7-inch called "Girls on Coke," set to the tune of Duran Duran's "Girls on Film." The album's standout track is "Saturday Morning Rush," chronicling one crate-digger's mad dash through the streets of London in pursuit of the must-have 12" of the week. With only an hour to go, he dodges crowds on the Tube and Scandinavian tourists looking for Kula Shaker, only to wind up at the Soul Jazz shop where the clerk "is selling rare, obscure, expensive jazz to rare, obscure, expensive DJs in rare, obscure, Japanese denim." If this sounds familiar, you're a certifiable trainspotter, but take heart: at least you're not a Dido.


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