THE GENTLE WAVES, Swansong for You (Jeepster) Belle and Sebastian cellist Isobel Campbell holds back for over 30 minutes before asking what must surely be

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CD Reviews

THE GENTLE WAVES, Swansong for You (Jeepster) Belle and Sebastian cellist Isobel Campbell holds back for over 30 minutes before asking what must surely be a rhetorical question: "Do you like pretty things?" It's impossible to take the query at face value, considering that if listeners make it to the eighth track, they are certainly not averse to lovely, pastoral stuff like songs about praying for angels sung in a little girl whisper and backed by glockenspiels and violins. Her second release as the Gentle Waves abounds with Belle and Sebastian- style cuddly fuss and aching twee pop, the sort that gets fans all goose-pimply and nostalgic. But Swansong, which also features a bunch of B and S players, has the same problems as last summer's lackluster Fold Your Hands Child . . .; neither disc has the cynical bite or cunning lyrical wit of earlier albums like Tigermilk. The tunes here are, however, about as wistful and darkly romantic as a body can stand. Campbell's cello, piano, and guitar tiptoe around evocative string arrangements and horn sections, and her vocals are rarely more than muted murmurs. "Falling from Grace" sails like the last waltz of an imprisoned heiress as Campbell's sadly repeated refrain, "I'm always looking for the sun," fades gracefully. "Loretta Young" has Campbell offering the lovelorn actress some solace, "Loretta you're young/Loretta you'll learn." The lone upbeat track, "Sisterwoman," is lively enough to save the album from drowning in remorseful orchestration. Here the Scottish chanteuse dons metaphorical go-go boots, aids and abets the beat with some finger snaps, and generally does a pretty mean Nancy Sinatra impression.—Laura Learmonth

DELTRON 3030, Deltron 3030 (75 Ark) Well, what do you know? Another hip-hop "concept album" on which the rapper pretends he's an alien and/or from the future. And look! It's produced by Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, the benign dystopianist whose aural back alleys are most famous for underpinning (what's this?) Kool Keith's 1996 comeback project, Dr. Octagon. Gee, what a completely unexpected development. But no one ever said surprise and pleasure were the same thing, and so it is on Automator's new collaboration with fellow Bay Area beat-nerd Del the Funky Homosapien. If anything, Del's unhurried, plainspoken-homebody vocals complement Automator's slow-mo, air chamber- orchestrated beats better than Keith's staccato flow. If his ideas are less rampantly head-spinning and seldom display the mark of genius, they're far more sensible and consistent: He was born to play guest host to Automator's revolving circus of computer blips, lonesome violins, and guest stars. While Deltron 3030's cameos don't match the consistent wit of those on 1999's Prince Paul collaboration, Handsome Boy Modeling School, they work just fine. Best in show: Blur's Damon Albarn, whose posh accent provides the overture and whose falsetto cinches the hook of the album's best song, "Time Keeps on Slipping." Next best: Paul Barman, who marks his 36- second showpiece with a highfalutin, powdered-wiggy tone that I bet he picked up from one of his Brown professors. —Michaelangelo Matos

SUPA DJ DMITRY, Scream of Consciousness (TVT) Dmitry has changed since the demise of Deee-Lite, and the proof is in the pudding. Yup, that same man gazing pensively—almost existentially—off to the horizon on the cover of Scream of Consciousness is the same man who used to wear goofy ponytails and anything polyester with an anti-Garanimal flair. This disc hints less at Bugs Bunny than Burroughs and is definitely more turntable Sartre than raver-jogging Seuss; the music reads more seriously without being disturbed or dark. Like many mix CDs, Dmitry includes some of his own tracks in the lineup. Unlike some others, he waits—saving them on the bench until the end, opting to put heavier hitters like Josh Wink, Timo Maas, and Terry Mullan into rotation before even firing them out in a set-finishing succession. As part of this plan, he dusts off a 10-year old remix of "What Is Love?" to finish and slingshot the set off into the darkness, Space Mountain- style; it's a suitable counterbalance to Sud & Jacques' "Krishna," which "oms" the listener into a staging area to cleanse off the worries of the material world before Dmitry conducts his tour. Another curiosity on Dmitry's mystery tour into his new world is the remake of Bowie's "Space Oddity," which features Julee Cruise relaying the Major Tom/Ground Control communications as the SRBs (solid rocket beats) kick in, keeping the song appropriately spacy yet safe from being just another cover. Equipment like this makes Dmitry's progression convincing and solid, displaying his remixing as well as his compositional skills. Those who still expect a good ride won't be disappointed, but keep in mind it will be through a wax museum, not a fun house.—Gregory Parks

YUME BITSU, Auspicious Winds (K) There's a certain austerity to the renunciation of vocals in music—as if a band were fasting in the hills to escape pop's fatuous excess. And while it can be an effective move, it can also get tedious fast, especially when you've got hundreds of bands taking the monastic route. Yume Bitsu are at their best when they return to vocals, which can be as gratifying as a home-cooked feast to a hungry, wandering sailor. Just when you think the album opener, "The Wedding Procession," will start to drag and drone, it treats you to beautiful vocal harmonies, somehow purer and fresher because of the wait. The second, edgier track remains instrumental but leads directly into "Sharp, Twisted," the album's lone "rock" song. They do it so well you start to wish they'd do it more often. But instead, with the last two songs, the quartet set off on another meandering journey, and this time they don't come home. The album floats further and further into space; when vocals are reintroduced on the final track, they sound distant and cold, failing to set off the warm explosions pop creates with the perfect overlapping of voice, meaning, and sounds.—Will Comerford

 
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