Seattle hiphop is not the new grunge. Let's stop saying that right now. Grunge was beer-soaked, drug-addled, and dirty. Seattle hiphop is knowledge-soaked, positive, and has no heroin addicts.
Hiphop in the Northwest is, however, taking off and is undeniably huge. Common Market—the duo of prophetic rapper RA Scion and omnipresent DJ/producer Sabzi—are a big reason for the uproar. Their self-titled LP has been repackaged and mixed by Martin Feveyear and Sabzi in preparation for a national push. Feveyear's client list includes Kings of Leon, the Lashes, Mark Lanegan, and Brandi Carlisle.
For Common Market, RA Scion's lyrical delivery hangs and shuffles with an even, clean, and weaving pentameter. The beats and raps pontificate on and navigate through a hedge maze of political, religious, and philosophical pleadings. Listening to enough Common Market could make you do something like vote or study or read the paper or do good.
On the album's anthem, "G'Dang Diggy," Scion observes, "Home is where the hatred is/Break bread but never offered them a taste until they pay for this/I process thoughts outside the cattle run/To provide you with a ride when the battlin's done."
In comparison to their live set, however, Common Market sounds as if it could benefit from more risk taking. But when your live show engages and flexes like Common Market's, it's not surprising that the records don't always capture that onstage intensity. TRENT MOORMAN
Common Market play Tues Oct 10 at the University of Washington, 4 pm; and with Michael Franti & Spearhead Fri Oct 13 at the Paramount Theatre, 6:30 pm, $27.
James Yancey (Jay Dee/J Dilla) died early this year after a long illness. The Shining is his second posthumous release; his first, Donuts, was released soon after his death. The two CDs are very different: Donuts is a raw discharge of sound energy and rhythm concepts; The Shining, on the other hand, is clear, controlled, and contained. There is no overflow in The Shining, just the basic beats and ethereal sense of beauty that made Yancey a popular producer. And though he never became as big as Kanye West or the Neptunes, he certainly cleared the way for them, and in the late '90s was considered the most important and influential hiphop producer after the RZA.
The Shining has two standout tracks, "E=MC2" and "Love." The first features Common; the second features Pharoahe Monch. For Common's part, we find him at his best since "Heat," which was also produced by Yancey and which stands as one of hiphop's finest moments. "E=MC2" has the slamming, sickly syncopated beat that has defined Yancey's style almost since the beginning of his career—certainly since his work on A Tribe Called Quest's later albums. The track is sad not because of its content but because it demonstrates hiphop's real (and wasted) potential. "Love" is amazing for two reasons: its beauty and due to the fact that it has a rapper, Pharoahe Monch, who's promoting brotherly/sisterly love. Yancey's final message is "we must be in love, we must be in love." CHARLES MUDEDE
DEAD CAN DANCE
Despite Dead Can Dance's official demise in 1998, Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard remain host and exorcist of music's most beloved dead languages.
The ubiquitous duo may have resurrected themselves for last year's "reunion" tour, a sought-after spectacle featuring Perry's sonorous atmospherics and Gerrard's spine-chilling and serrated spoken tongues, but both have expressed a lack of interest in ever recording together again, leaving 4AD in mourning, and hosting yet another Wake.
This double-disc eulogy was originally released in 2003, comprising 12 years of Dead Can Dance's fanatical shape shifting. Wake opens with the ritually rhythmic demo "Frontier" from their 1984 self-titled debut in line with dark-wave figureheads This Mortal Coil, and leads into their more gothic chamber music and Renaissance fare. Titles include the devastating wail of "Cantara," and songs from Serpent's Egg, including "The Host of Seraphim," which landed them in the vanguard of world music and into the soundtrack of Baraka, the 1992 cult film of indigenous culture.
The focus of the compilation is Dead Can Dance's transition into the world's most cloistered and clandestine music traditions with Aion, Into the Labyrinth, Toward the Within, and Spiritchaser. The archival of the arcane spans several continents and is imbued by the anthropology of ancient, baroque, and troubadour instrumentation, including the lute, tribal percussion, the hurdy-gurdy, the didjeridoo, the yangqin (a Chinese hammered dulcimer most memorable from "Rakim"), and Gerrard's entranced glossolalia—the entirely intuited language that has immortalized Dead Can Dance's groundbreaking body of work, reverently presented in Wake. KATHY F. MAHDOUBI
THE DFA/VARIOUS ARTISTS
The DFA Remixes Chapter Two
It's been five years since the DFA strafed dance floors with the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers." As disco-punk has gone the way of such NYC cultural dinosaurs as cocaine bars, pagers, and Friendster in that brief time period, the two volumes of DFA remixes rebuke the notion of the label dancing itself toward the exits anytime soon. Producers James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy have a pedigree that connects to two of the most iconic labels of the '90s, Sub Pop and Mo'Wax, yet they sound dateless. How else to explain how Chapter One rejiggled has-beens like Jon Spencer, Le Tigre, and the Chemical Brothers into 21st-century guilty pleasures as warm as flannel and glowsticks?
Meaning the DFA functions still as either rock or dance, giving you one where you would expect the other. NIN's "Hand That Feeds" gets gloved in an iridescent material whereas feedback pierces the flabby pale booties of Junior Senior's "Shake Your Coconuts." While N.E.R.D. just talk about asses as spaceships, the remix of "She Wants to Move" gives it liftoff. If anything, the DFA have evolved to stretch other genre descriptors, including prog, acid, drone, and funk, regardless of their clientele or era. Consider the epic-length tracks: "Slide In," an indulgent speedball of tingly guitar glissandos and intensive percussion circle, in which they turn Alison Goldfrapp's voice into an atomizer. It's a feat replicated when UNKLE's plodding triphop evaporates into pink noise clouds. Then there's Tiga's "Far from Home," the inane electro of the original diverted off course like Odysseus, making for one strange trip, indeed. ANDY BETA
Play Pause Stop
Marco Benevento and Joe Russo first met in a north Jersey middle school, but they came together as the Benevento/Russo duo in 2002, honing their sound at a Thursday-night residency at the Knitting Factory in New York. That sound is classic rock meets electronica, Pete Townshend cohabitating long distance with Jimmy Tamborello. And on their newest album, Play Pause Stop, the Duo's got this strange hybrid down to a science.
Russo provides the percussive chops that anchor each of the instrumental songs on Play Pause Stop, while Benevento wails on the organ (as well as a Mellotron, a Wurlitzer, and many circuit-bent instruments). The result is much more straight-ahead than it has any right to be. The title track (and opener) begins with some sharp staccato beats before arcing into what is well-nigh a power ballad without words. Benevento offers that it was "an exercise in stringing chords together from one single note." But the album's not all experimentation; the tracks on Play Pause Stop sound more deliberately laid out than some of the Duo's earlier, more improvisational work. The strong "Best Reason to Buy the Sun" (the title of an earlier album) follows Russo's propulsive beats toward an inchoate, but powerful manifesto, while the shuffling "Memphis," closes the album on a soft note that lingers in the head like a classic country song.
Several tracks, including the emotive "Soba," have a wide-open-skies longing to them. They demand narrative, but at the same time refuse it by breaking apart into purposeful dissonance instead of coming together in resolution. For two kids from Jersey, it's pretty compelling stuff. CHRIS McCANN
Keep in mind this wacky bunch is from Toronto, so there's a good chance this is some performance-art larf partially funded by the local city council rather than the gloriously transcendent garbage-can-to-nirvana grope that it feels like. Fucked Up slash like the Dwarves, proselytize like a red-nosed, late-night televangelist ready to dump it all for some tail, and clay-knead with the oomph of pre-bedroom-retreated indie rock. This debut starts with super-catchy riffs revved with the motor and vocal growl of prime Oi!, until you notice the tunes are hitting six minutes, ascending out of the pit with power-pop jangle, and lyrics that seem to transmute hardcore's tired dogmas into some parody of biblical-crusade pomposity. There's talk of smashing citadels, cleaning rot from your soul, and fucking your wife within moments of one another. If your grip is sure and you hang on, other creepy asides like choral background vocals rise out. But if you are still hanging on, it's because you like good old fist-pump street punk, which these tweaked twentysomethings aim to reclaim from the pathetic Hellcat Records liberty-spike caricature it has become. ERIC DAVIDSON
THE HOWLING HEX
Nightclub Version of the Eternal
I worship few current rock musicians (it is rather unseemly for a man my age), but Howling Hex honcho Neil Michael Hagerty may be the one I most strongly revere. The ex–Pussy Galore and ex–Royal Trux guitarist/singer should've begun waning years ago, but two decades into his career, he continues to blaze with vitality. After Royal Trux's 2000 split, Hagerty's undergone a resurgence of creative juice, peaking with 2005's All-Night Fox.
Nightclub Version of the Eternal doesn't hit with the same stunning impact as that classic, but it is an impressive addition to the Howling Hex canon. Hagerty (who plays baritone guitar here) is joined by guitarist Mike Saenz, whose solos will either blow your mind or shut it down. Saenz's extended forays of note-bending and corkscrewing meandering, mostly rendered in oddly ornery tunings, may prove to be a stumbling point for some. Another will be Hagerty's compositional approach: The seven tracks here aren't so much songs as epic jams with hypnotic (or monotonous, if you're afflicted with ADD) hand-percussion-fueled rhythms and Pentecostal-chant male/female vocals, over which the guitarists spill arabesques of astringent Beefheartisms, with hints of Andy Gill's disciplined, staccato attack and of King Sunny Ade and Ali Farke Touré's fluidity and intoxicating intonations. All of this may not be your cup of tea, but you have to admit it is a strange, rarely tasted blend—one worthy of worship, even. DAVE SEGAL
Paint a Lady
L'enfant Assassin des Mouches
As seemingly anything and everything is getting reissued in the 21st century (though I'd like to put in a vote for Tim Buckley's Starsailor and that Bobby Charles record on Bearsville, thanks), the business becomes a matter of digging for curios and anachronistic juxtapositions, of unearthing the rare grooves that even rare groovers don't namedrop.
Enter UK vinyl hound of the Baskervilles, Andy Votel, and his new stateside imprint, B-Music. Turkish psychedelia, Welsh folk—Votel's rebirthed such unlikely genres, while getting dusty fingers looking for other mutations lost to time. But what to call the discovery of Philly folk singer Susan Christie and her unreleased album, Paint a Lady? The bio tells how Christie voiced the Captain Kangaroo staple "I Love Onions" before creating this oddity. As folk, Lady is just passable, fuzzy from drugs and delusions, yet producer Jon Hill knew to mic the drums like much-sampled producer David Axelrod. The nine minutes of "Yesterday, Where's My Mind?" encapsulate the lysergic effect that infuses the disc: boring yet brilliant, clichéd but singular as an acid trip. Christie digs reality as illusive and temporal as cotton candy on the title track. Her music's stoned and mopey, but her crisp backbeat keeps it relevant.
Far more hallucinatory is Jean-Claude Vannier's opus, which translates as "The Child-Assassin of Flies." Vannier's dossier includes producing Ye-Ye and arranging one of the world's few perfect records, Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson. He may also be the only Frenchman sampled by both Beck and Prince Paul. His telltale choirs, orchestras, Gallic-funk bass lines, and caustic guitar lines all appear here, but they are spliced with more disorienting sounds (cicadas, billiards, heartbeats, creepy kids). "The King of the Flies and the Rose Jam" could get mistaken for both Morricone and Bollywood, save for that awful sound not unlike cutting a key. Quelle bizarre. ANDY BETA