Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2015-01-30


Boozoo Bajou: 4 (Apollo, 2014) As you probably guessed, this is a fourth album, its perpetrators a trip-hoppy German electronic duo whose previous titles have been sportier: Satta, Dust My Broom, Grains. All are "interesting," to resort to a technical term favored by us non-electronicats. But for a lover of Hassell & Eno and Nils Petter Molvaer, this is something grander: "calming" first, that's true, but also "engaging," "sustaining." Marcus Stockhausen's trumpet on the lead "Jan Mayen" sets that Hassell-Molvaer tone, but this isn't the '70s-Miles trip you might sanely anticipate. It's more like Tricky at his best, sans bummed-out or distracted vocals and conveying a spirituality at peace with the turmoil it contains. Hey, I know what we can call it: "beautiful." A-

Burial: Rival Dealer (Hyperdub EP, 2013) A year into a relationship that began admiring, went on hiatus, and returned passively and then actively pleasurable, this half hour of music now generates something like that satisfied feeling I get when I spend time with, say, Into the Music or Rokku Mi Rokka. Despite the reflexively dark title it shares with the lead track, despite the glitched electronics that will always scare off my generational cohort, despite the consoling females who will just as inevitably trip cynics' corn alarms, its gestalt is intelligently humanistic and fucking uplifting well before the quiet, awkward self-acceptance speech that serves as a coda. The final track goes by "Come Down to Us." Good album title, I'd reckon. A

Flying Lotus: You're Dead! (Warp, 2014) The problem isn't that it's less than the sum of its parts--the problem is that there is no sum, only parts ("Turkey Dog Coma," "Ready Err Not") **

Moody Good: Moody Good (Owsla, 2014) U.K. hip-hop beatmaster constructs oft engaging sonic collage in which beats oft shatter flow ("Docbond," "Raindrips") **

Jaipur Kawa Brass Band: Dance of the Cobra (Riverboat, 2013) Classically trained Hindustani tabla player gathers wittingly unkempt and you bet hard-touring Gypsy brass brand from the fountainhead of the Gypsies--Mother India ("Piya Tu Ab To Aaja," "Sonia Dil Da Mamla") ***

Khun Narin Electric Phin Band: Khun Narin Electric Phin Band (Innovative Leisure, 2014) From rural Thailand, a loose, multigenerational gaggle of musicians play their lively yet quiet and medium-tempo version of something called phin phayuk, a phin being the traditional, long-necked, three-stringed lute they electrify. Why American enthusiasts call the result "Psych & Funk" beats me as it always does. I'm beginning to intuit that "psych" means any vernacular instrumental music that seems to wander a little and isn't the mysterious and antique "jazz." But "funk," well--it's true my wife always guesses that they're from some sub-Saharan place, but the rhythms are both straightforward and more poky than pushy, their trance factor a matter of scale and timbre even when they get tricky. This is probably why phin phayuk has sounded just right at breakfast on three or four occasions. In rural Thailand, it starts parades. In Manhattan, it's wake up and make the tea music. B+

Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven (Warp, 2013) Not weird enough--indulges the Jean Michel Jarre tendencies built into his DNA ("Americans," "Inside World") ***

Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite (Nonesuch, 2014) Although I admire Reich in general and love Music for 18 Musicians in particular, he does dig him some austere, and austere I can live without. But here Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood performs one of Reich's more virtuosic pieces and Reich returns the favor by assigning minimalist variations on some cunningly concealed Radiohead themes to the alert experimentalists Alarm Will Sound. Right, no one would call it a party. But the rock sonorities are very much a comfort nonetheless. So I expect to get my secondary Reich fix here from now on. And while sticking with Kid A, I'll probably get my secondary Radiohead fix here too. In prog of any vintage or cultural orientation, minimalist rigor rocks. A-

Sam Shalabi: Music for Arabs (Majmua Music, 2014) It is what it is, ambient and arty and alien and amusing all at once--random (??) talk in a language you don't understand overlaid with guitar improv to divert cab drivers in a Cairo traffic jam ("Music for the Egyptians," "The Enemy of My Enemy") *

Skrillex: Recess (Atlantic, 2014) No longer going for the jugular, he risks missing pencilnecks like yours truly altogether ("Try It Out [Neon Mix]," "Stranger") **

Sunmonx: Power Salad (Interchill, 2012) New Zealand electronicat and Mexican guitarist dub it up with a glitchy thickness in boogie-down Melbourne ("Kow Chow," "Rokkit Snot") **

Rework: Philip Glass Remixed (Orange Mountain, 2012) Electronica all-stars make more beauteous background music from minimalist all-star's compositions than they could with their own (My Great Ghost, "12 Parts--Part 1"; Beck, "NYC 73-78") **

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