Ming & FS
Baltic Room, 625-4444, Sat Jan 20.

METHOD MAN LENDS his skills to Limp Bizkit and Roni Size back-to-back; Madonna ditches pop for vocoder-obsessed French electro; Mos Def pulls a Hendrix at a record-release party in New York; three Weezer-worshippers from Texas take on NWA's "Boyz-N-The Hood" and make it a folked-out indie hit. Is anything pure anymore? Not hardly, and thank God. Yes, there's plenty of poorly executed "fusion" stuff out there right now--easy shortcuts for the talent-challenged and the grasping. But when artists like Ming & FS can take a genuine love for hard beats and hiphop, and have the balls not to play it straight, it becomes a thing of beauty, indeed.

The pair (Ming is the beat's ying to FS' hiphop yang) first began recording breakbeat tracks together and released a series of teaser singles before independently forming Madhattan recording studios and label, and unleashing their first full-length, Hell's Kitchen, in 1999. A joyful, chaotic explosion of styles--Ming & FS dubbed it "junkyard drum and bass"--from ragga and electro to freestyle MC-ing and jungle, the album was densely textured but never heavy, wildly diverse but never incompliant.

Then something odd happened. The duo's follow-up EP, Applied Pressure, seemed to backslide into "safety" jungle, and the boundaries the two had been so gleefully pushing snapped back into tired place. Five solid hiphop-inflected tracks didn't suck, but neither did they soar. The jewel case's affixed instruction said it all: "FILE UNDER: DRUMNBASS." The dynamism of Kitchen had been replaced by jungle's rote thump--no more square pegs in round holes, no matter how much we liked those pegs.

All is not lost, however. Ming, via e-mail, admits, "I don't really care [about the future of jungle]. It's been getting really stagnant. Other genres, like speed garage and two-step, have been getting my attention lately." We second that emotion, and say to them both: Go ahead and be shameless genre sluts. Tonight, we want it all.