Top 5 this week

Various-OM Lounge-15 Year Edition (OM)(US)
More of the same on the anniversary edition of the long running collection, in fact this one is a real throw back to the early OM Lounge and Mushroom Jazz days with a focus on the more musical elements of downtempo and early evening house music. Lisa Shaw's "Inside My Love" from her new album on Tommy Boy is outstanding and outshines most of the tracks on this collection. Gelka and J. Boogie contribute some nice work as well to keep things afloat while Home & Garden, as usual, play it all cheesy. The remaining artists on this year's installment choose to play it safe so there's definitely a feeling you've heard this all before. Things fortunately do pick up at the end of the comp with the Bombay Bicycle Club's folky leanings signalling a shift to more Baleiric sounds. Nicken turns in a doozy with the shimmering Mercury Rev-influenced "LifeB" while Rithma & Steve Sampling closes things out with the absolutely gorgeous chillout beauty "(The Only) Dark In The Light" making this whole compilation pretty half-decent for just being the same old same old.

Pearlcoder-Illex (Blackfish Prod.)(Germany)
Illex is a good old fashion chillout album like dance music artists used to make up until about the mid-Nineties. In some ways it's a ton o' fun to hear this Chris Coco-influenced Balearic/pseudo-beatless Orb-wannabe sh*t. While I get a kick out of diverse sounds and the kinds of electronic music that explore melody via deep space instead of brutish techno rhythms ala trance it's just as easy for chillout music like this to so easily morph into crappy New Age synth wankery- and Pearlcoder definitely have a taste for that on this album. My friend Pas-Sean describes this album best when he said that music like this is too languid and spacy for consideration in any other context besides the headphones during deep meditation. I think I'll have to agree with him on this one.

Tortoise-Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)(US)
On their sixth full length, and first since 2004's It's All Around You, the great Chicago post-rock band finally seems at a loss for new ideas after 20 years of restless invention. That's not to say Beacons of Ancestorship is unworthy of any praise because I'd be lying-this is a great record. What I've always liked about Tortoise are the sinewy channels they carve into their dense and intricate compositions. I've also particularly enjoyed the fluid shifts between electronic and organic soul these guys are always able to pull off so well, and of course nary a vocalist in sight. There's plenty of these elements to be found on here, if only more bands could be this imaginative- and Tortoise has certainly influenced countless others-what a better world we'd live in. The only thing that rings hollow on this album, as I had stated previously, is that these guys have been in uncharted waters for so long where do they go anymore that's new and inventive? Apparently nowhere, well maybe a little more indie guitar deedling than per usual, but beyond that if you've heard any of the last five albums by Tortoise than you've heard this one, too. That makes Beacons of Ancestorship a tad disappointing.

Lafayette Afro-Rock Band-Darkest Light/The Best Of (Strut)(US)
These guys left America to find limited success in France in the mid-Seventies and wound up supplying hip-hop with a good chunk of the genre's most recognizable samples. Best known for the dance music classic "Soul Makossa" and the instantly recognizable sax hook for Wreckx-N-Effect's "Rump Shaker" these guys get a second look from reissue label Strut, as do many groups of their ilk. The band's large ensemble nature included a dynamite horn section and covered an effload of ground musically from disco to Afrobeat with a lot of acid rock noodling in-between. The everything-but-the-kitchen -sink approach used by the group certainly created a lot of unusual music, which is probably why they've been sampled so much in the hip-hop world. Unfortunately, part of what makes sampling and re-editing so great is that you can pare down the best elements of a jam into a white hot club arrangement. What the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band do by themselves belongs to another era and seems glaringly out-of-place in the 21st Century leaving me to believe the best portion of their work can easily be accessed on the radio on one of your favorite mixshows or via the Paul's Boutique album. Sometimes the re-work outstrips the original and that is the case here.

Hearts of Darkness-Shit Fan Punx Get Busted EP (dELETED ART)(Sweden)
Hearts of Darkness is Frank Musarra and the best this little 5 tracker can be described as is electro-punk. Everything I've been harping on when I rail against the Presets and Adam Freeland being too polished is no where to be found here. This is the Germs' "Forming" jamming with the Wigan sisters and borrowing some vintage synthesizers from Tommy Gear. This EP is so rough it makes the Cramps sound like Jethro Tull in comparison. Now that I've finally heard some scuzzy dance rock I gotta say there are some nice Pere Ubu moments (both Musarra and the Ubus hail from Cleveland) but overall not really my cup o tea, me being just a little too old to feel like this is any more groundbreaking than the Black Randy album that came out on Dangerhouse back in 1979 was. Oh well...

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