CDs by Tricky's pals and Harmony Korine

THE BABY NAMBOOS, Ancoats2Zambia (Durban Poison/ Palm Pictures) Tricky is what you call a wanker. For this and many other reasons, I am relieved that on the debut from his new Durban Poison label darlings, the Baby Namboos, his egotistical ramblings bubble to the foreground a scant three times. Instead, we get rapturous melodies, flooded with the sort of deep beats that Portishead and Massive Attack made famous (don't credit Tricky, he rode that train all the way to hell), with a new motley crew of rappers, rhymers, and dreamers. And even though the "trip-hop" movement has since stalled, I would argue that now—the days of jungle, big beat, and whatever—is the perfect time to slow down and feel the rhythm. On "Hard Times," singer Aurora Borealis sounds strangulated, her voice pushing to break through the tribal drums and stoned strains. It's a weird instrument, meek and weak but wiry at the same time as she asks, "Who's gonna rescue you?" She's easily the most compelling aspect of the album, and she doesn't appear enough. Though they recall the earlier trip-hop masters, the Baby Namboos are not Portishead in new clothes: Songs don't fully develop or slowly unfold—these are not mini-blues epics. Baby's music is hip like the music in a trendy car ad: shuffling beats, clever samples, various mumbling male "rappers," a female vocalist. Why, I believe we have every piece of the puzzle necessary to make a band for the new millennium! This isn't to say that the Baby Namboos should go straight to the used bin, but it's disheartening when the two bonus tracks, remixes of the title song from jungle don Dillinja and Portishead's Geoff Barrow, leave a more lasting impression than the original material.—Tricia Romano

SSAB SONGS, SSAB Songs (Omplatten) Most viewers react to Harmony Korine's films (Julien Donkey-Boy, Gummo, Kids) with one of three words: "crap," "meaningless," or "genius." A forward-thinking artist/punk who likes to disassemble, juxtapose, and admire words and pictures, Korine finally addresses his musical aspirations with SSAB Songs (SSAB being a Swedish steel company, should you care). It's not an unexpected move; a carefully chosen black metal or lo-fi pop song spurs on some of Gummo's most memorable shots. When you pop this disc into your PC player, it will tell you you're about to hear the New Age artist Nature's Moods' Chorus of Whales album. Of course! Listening to SSAB Songs is a lot like trying to wash a car with shoes on your hands; it's hardly practical, but in some faraway millisecond, it makes a dashing portrait. Korine and his friend Brian Degraw bash out 27 minutes of nonstop sound collages—some meaningless, some crap—but all of it embracing. There are washes of what could be an Alan Lomax sound recording, or the Incredible String Band. Next, a mutilated harmonica, and a tumble of taunting children's voices (perhaps borrowed from an old Star Trek episode?) waver over a math-rock underbelly and present a confusing dilemma: Should we love Korine for trying or kick his ass for it? A true Renaissance man prefers the latter.—Kristy Ojala

S.O.L.O., Out Is In (Sulfur/Beggars Banquet) This lovely piece of electronic pastoralism is just about the last thing you might expect from a guy whose main claim to fame are ridiculous gabba—the type of techno that starts at 180 beats per minute—versions of "Hava Naquila" and "Happy Birthday." But such stylistic 180s are almost a given in the post-house climate—think of Alec Empire flitting between the digital hardcore of Atari Teenage Riot and his own quieter solo work. And that's just what we have here. S.O.L.O. is Michael Wells, who as Technohead recorded harder, much darker works for grindcore label Earache under the name Signs Ov Chaos. But on Out Is In, Wells caresses the eardrums he once made bleed with loping, contemplative basslines, subtle but by no means buried beats, occasional out-of-range shouts, murmurs, and chants. The stars of the show are the abundance of wigged-out strings: the twisting, intertwining lines of "Fish Happens," the country fiddle samples of "The Batchelor Party," and the swirling ambience of "Angel of Love." Like a cross between the particularly British whimsy of Wagon Christ and the calm emotionality of Moby's Play, S.O.L.O. is fanciful without sounding stupid, even if you're not expecting it. —Michaelangelo Matos

 
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