The Private Repress
Modern Japanese pop culture has a tendency to absorb Americana and tweak it up all postmodernlike for its own means, à la Cowboy Bebop's spaghetti Western anime or the lucha-libre-influenced wrestling style of puroresu's Ultimo Dragon. Small wonder that they should latch onto the sun-baked breaks of Cali's Josh Davis so fervently that an entire album of DJ Shadow remixes has been released as a Japan-only exclusive. Most of the tracks on The Private Repress are strictly gaijin, maybe to their detriment. U.N.K.L.E. shoehorns a burbling breakbeat into the retro-electrofunk of "GDMFSOB" to decent effect, but sabotages it with kitschy South Park sound bites and a clumsy monotone rap from Roots Manuva. The "Six Days" remix is a meta-mash-up that layers the vocals atop a recombobulated "Walkie Talkie" and throws in a few worn-down Mos Def sound bites. Too bad most of Repress' remainder sounds, well, repressed: It's filled with B-sides-for-a-reason (the sluggish electrodink "Disavowed") and redundant "radio edits" of the original album's songs. But when the tracks do work, they smash. Z-Trip's "Get the Party Off Mix" of "Right Thing" uses minimal tinkering and an emphasis of the uprock-friendly breaks that made the original so deadly, then drops memorable hooks from Shadow classics to create a worthy successor to Cut Chemist's classic blowup of Endtroducing's "The Number Song." Soulwax collides "Six Days" with the B-52's "52 Girls" to give the dour vocals a perversely bouncy backing. And the sick Ginza subway-line graf-bombing electro-acid "Tokio Ghetto Tech Remix" of "Right Thing/GDMFSOB" rights its batting average considerably. Uneven, but the Shibuya fashion kids would do well to snap it upthey'll know how to properly mutate it. NATE PATRIN
(Kill Rock Stars)
Like Genesis, Seattle can't dance. Like a Genesis groupie, Beth Ditto seems to have an invisible touch, yeah; she reaches in, grabs right hold of your heart. Something's gotta give. Movement is scattered and smothered with Ditto's you-can't-fucking-deny-me soul, more so than any prior Gossip release and almost as much as the Olympia-via-Searcy, AR trio's infectious revivalist live spectacle. That's the key; as inspiring and inclusive as the rockabilly riot is onstage, Brace Paine and Kathy Mendonca's plain-Jane guitar-'n'-drums setup was always too narrow to lure me to the merch table. This time, the studio platter couldn't be fuller, especially dark, driven barn burners like "Jason's Basement" and "All My Days." Ditto's lungs are clearly touched, and goddamn if the woman doesn't channel Janis J. on "Nite" and Ella F. on the tail end of "Days." One tends to forget the band's subtle progressive idealism slithering through the party, but their pro-queer, proactive, pro-lady testimonials cut a little deeper this time. Propulsive hand claps in "Fire/Sign" punctuate Ditto's wail, "What do I gotta do to make it work out?" On wax, nothing. In the real world? Seems like she and the band are doin' plenty. ANDREW BONAZELLI
Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul From Miami, Florida 1968-1974
(Soul Jazz, U.K.)
If we're living in the golden age of anything, it's the trainspotter reconfiguration of the past's canon, and nowhere has this been truer than the field of post-Motown R&B. But as much as the resurgence of lost underground funk is about time, it's even more importantly about place, and the Miami Sound compilation gives a long-overdue nod to a region most associate with Jan Hammer. I can think of worse ways to open a compilation of, well, anything than with All the People's "Cramp Your Style." Though much of its fame has to do with its molassesized turn in Boogie Down Production's "I'm Still #1," it's peerless on its own terms; the horns, guitar, and bass are all blueprint-perfect '72-model funk that's one organ short of being the best song on the Meters' Cabbage Alley. Husband and wife George and Gwen McRae contribute a classic apiece, with Gwen's sultry, defiant wah-wah blues-funk strut "90% of Me Is You" just topping the bass-and-piano stomp and Zombies-esque tscccchk-ahhh of George's "I Get Lifted." Most startling of all is Timmy Thomas' "Funky Me," a hypnotic percussive rumble propelled entirely by a murky-sounding organ and an ancient drum machine that could almost be considered a Rosetta Stone of funk's electro future. The compilation's date cuts off just when Miami-based T.K. Records, from whence all these tracks originated, was about to be blindingly brightened by the mega-platinum success of KC and the Sunshine Band. Anyone who's ever wondered how that empire was built would be well-advised to discover the foundation laid by these seminal cuts. N.P.