CEX, FANNYPACK, AND MORE

CEX

Being Ridden

(Temporary Residence)

Anyone who's studied Rjyan "Cex" Kidwell's online diary (Rjyan.com) and sonic evolution from age 18 to 21 knows that when he crows "Middle finger to the indie-rock singer" on this LP's "Earth-Shaking Event," he's flipping the bird at himself, too. Cex is an arrogant, sleek, Baltimore hip-hop head, while Rjyan is, according to his site, "a little boy who doesn't always do the right thing." Together they're a prolific, diversified beat juggernaut, detonating a minefield of volatile ghetto bumps below a morose acoustic-guitar death march. So when Cex demands the mike in "Earth-Shaking," asserting that "Sexual hang-ups are out/Sexual phone ringing, off the hook, that's what it's about," you happily pass it, wowed by his bullish anti-emo braggadocio. Crazy thing is, Rjyan just uses the opportunity to go eclecticand kinda emoon your ass. According to "Not Working," his voice won't do what he wants it to, his friends look at him funny, and, oh yeah, his career's not working. Check out Ridden's cover; Cex's Heroes are Bowie and Reznor, sure, but Conor Oberst, Everlast, and even the Fresh Prince of Bel Air infiltrate his deadpan rhymes. Beyond the occasional Cex = sex boast track, Being Ridden is an ambitious pastiche of brain-crushing distortion ("Brer Rjyan"), electro inertia ("Dead Bodies," "The Wayback Machine") and unplugged-via-laptop laments ("Cex at Arm's Length"). Cex issued this fifth full-length with a vox-free complement, Being Ridden Instrumentals. Weird. Seems like an instrument-free Ridden would be just as compelling. ANDREW BONAZELLI

Cex plays the Crocodile Cafe at 9 p.m. Fri., July 25, with Ogurusu Norihide, Animal Collective (see preview, p. 53), and United States of Electronica. $8 adv.

FANNYPACK

So Stylistic

(Tommy Boy)

Republicans, sports scribes, and rock fans agree: There's nothing like nostalgia for a past that never existed. New York hip-hop trio FannyPack counter with a cooler coup. Their nostalgia is for an unremembered pastspecifically, late-'80s party rap. From trunk to crunk, FannyPack is modeled on the Miami beat-n-bass sound of L'Trimm, even though that duo's sole radar blip, "Cars With the Boom," dived out of sight 15 years ago. But yesterday's fad can be today's revolution, so New York DJs-turned-Svengalis Matt Goias and Fancy employ 17-year-old half-Puerto Rican, half-Thai MC Jessibel, 16-year-old half-black, half-Indian MC Belinda, and 21-year-old Brooklyn-via-Alabama honky Cat to coo, chide, and chatter over the near-perfect electro of cuts like the title track, "Boom Boom," and "Smack It Up." So Stylistic takes Britney's not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman duality to such extremes ("You better stay in school/And get good grades/Bag it on up/Don't wanna catch AIDS," one rhyme admonishes) that R. Kelly can't grab his car keys fast enough. "Sugar Daddy" features a Packer's moans going all the way with a turntable's scratches, and in "CamelToe," the trio's novelty hit, they implore, "Is your crotch hungry, girl/Cuz it's eating your pants!" These are Brooklyn's Heathers: They're bad girls for life, and all you wankstas can eat a cooky puss. YANCEY STRICKLER

CAFÉ TACUBA

Cuatro Caminos

(MCA)

Mexico City's most important rock band, Café Tacuba haven't released a full-length since 1999, when Reves/Yosoy showed how deeply their souls were divided: On one disc, they were edgy post-rock experimentalists; on the other, they created arguably the most beautiful pop songs in the world. But four years is a long time, and other, younger, hungrier bands (El Gran Silencio) and movements (Tijuana's Nortec scene) have come along in the meantime. Do our four heroes panic and change direction once again? Do Los Tacubistas slavishly adopt cumbia or narcocorrido styles? No, they do not. Cuatro Caminos is simply 14 songs that manage to perfectly encapsulate every single one of their many stylistic shifts and make it all sound totally natural. "Cero y Uno" opens the disc with a mix of Reves' soundscapes with Yosoy's pretty harmonic pop, and first single "Eo" is Re-era ska en español enlightened by some great debut- album-style snotty-blippy-stuttery vocals from Ruben Albarran (whose nom du vox is Elfego Buendia this time around). Most of the disc is produced by rockero legend Gustavo Santaolallo, but guest producers Andrew Weiss (Ween) and Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) help shake things up somewhat. Fridmann's work on the epic "Encantamiento Inútil" is perfect for this, perhaps the best 9/11 song yet. The pace drags sometimes, but songs as direct as "Qué Pasará" and as heartfelt as "Eres" and as flat-out lovely as "Hoy Es" make up for it. Heads up, hombres: The game is back on. MATT CIBULA

MICHAEL YONKERS

Microminiature Love

(Sub Pop)

I can only stand to hear a line like, "Navigate your boat/Keeping it afloat/Round and round and round the moat," from a songwriter who is insane, disenfranchised, or in kindergarten. From a regular guy, that kind of thing just sounds stupid. Michael Yonkers is definitely disenfranchised; seven of the 13 garage/psych sludge tracks on this release were recorded in 1968 in the Twin Cities and promised to the big guys at Sire Recordswho promptly flaked upon receiving them. Then a back injury and some botched medical care pretty much squelched what remained of that dream. But, as Yonkers yelps over a galloping, trashy garage beat on the fourth track, "Smile for a while, and you'll see your troubles fading into nothing." What I can't figure out is whether the guy was actually nuts when he wrote these anti-violence, pro-love songs, but happily, all signs point to yes. Like Roky Erikson and Syd Barrett, Yonkers is one of those rare singers whose voice is more endearing the more weird, warbled, unglued, and atonal it getsand Yonkers' definitely gets as weird as theirs. Toss in homemade toys and toasted-fuzz guitar sounds made by cobbled-together or deconstructed Fenders with custom-made effects and some killer, off-kilter vocal pacing, and you'll conclude that Yonkers may not be certifiable, but he and his band are undeniably different. Sublimely different. In fact, even though musically Microminiature is in line with the other raw pre-punk of its original era, it's one of those rare records that truly doesn't sound like anything else, and that's not just an excuse for not having any reference points. LAURA CASSIDY

TODD EDWARDS

Full On Volume 2

(i!)

Samples are samples, but sometimes they're not: Sometimes they're divined more than mined, sensations more than signs. Todd Edwards makes dance music meant to be danced to, but it's hard to get to dancing when his sample method takes shape. Fainting is more like it: rapturous collapse as breathless as the vocal air that Edwards compresses and conflates like no other. He's a true Christian believer, so the gospel link's not a stretch. He's a sound-argument genius, too, so neither is the rapture. Isolate any single swoon on Full On Volume 2, the sequel to 2001's superb first volume, to divine his patterns, but be forewarned: The system is there less to be gotten than received. "God only knows" goes a voice in "You Are All My," the chorus of which swirls and settles like spin-art paint spun into halo rings. Vocals glimmer and glow all over Edwards' disorienting hymns, faithful in their devotion to house music's ideals but fanatical enough to sharpen its proscribed passions. All tongue-twist swirl and quantum hiccups, the vocal ooze in "You're the One" seeps through tiny modulations and shifty bumps that coo with blurred clarity. Edwards' beats are great, too: Tightly shifty takes on house's formative four-four thump, with hi-hat twitter and round, melodic bass lines that show his past hand in fixing the silky slink of England's two-step garage scene. Facts show that Edwards is an underappreciated DJ/producer from New Jersey, but the foaming gurgle of Full On Volume 2 intimates that he might as well be from another planetone very much his own. ANDY BATTAGLIA

VACUOUS NINNIES

Vacuous Ninnies

(Quartermass, U.K.)

There are IDM records and then there are . . . well, yeah, there are IDM records, approximately 8,124 at last count, nearly all of which sound "experimental" in formalized ways long since perfected by Aphex Twin or Autechre. Thankfully, Vacuous Ninnies, an English feller with a background in grindcore cover bands and an ear for all sorts of music, is more inspired than many of his bedroom brethren: This is one of the best first-time at-home electronic-music discs in years, combining the warm, lush sound of Daft Punk with the styles of two German titansLuomo's beautiful, instantly appealing crispness and the rhythmic rigor and innovation of Mouse on Mars. He hasn't forgotten the "dance" part in the whole "Intelligent Dance Music" equationsongs like "(Can't) Get Up" and "Napkin Rhesus" burst and bubble with energy that would be perfectly at home in a DJ set designed for an actual rave instead of an art exhibitand the shimmering surge of his melodic samples (vocal sighs, massed chorus snippets, and pulsing textures) result in an endless flow of ecstatic energy, a music unafraid of celebration. The middle of the album bogs down a bit when Mr. Ninnies doesn't let these melodies really take the time to hold a listener's attentionminuscule chop-ups of his sources reduce what could be a massive impact. Still, he's suggested a way forward for the laptop crowd, if they're willing to try it. NED RAGGETT

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