Hit Me - Jah Wobble - Heaven & Earth (Vinyl, LP, Album)


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Droll, yet deeply passionate, the second album by the former stockbroker lays waste to the unimaginative song craft of the David Grays of this world. Flaccid, they were. Pretty Cool — their third album — is seriously tasty.

What gives? And what the heck is that naked woman doing hunched in the desert? Post-Britpop never sounded so passable. Two words: Jimmy Barnes. This compilation casts around for Barnes songs that are close to the hearts of his Kiwi fans.

Lovingly remastered, Peg Leg gets the attention denied so many other worthy Kiwi releases from that era. Worth a listen for the wonderful naivety permeating mids Kiwi musical endeavour. This is delightfully wonky stuff.

Bring on the lo-fi chicken bus! And for all its ultimate vacuity, these yearning for the simple life songs still have an odd charm, despite his rather flat, nerdish vocals.

And those backing cats, those guys with names like Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel and Danny Kortchmar; well, they were kinda funky in an odd way. Unlike the similarly hoarse-voiced Jimmy Barnes, Welsh-belter Jones delivers his lines with humour, honesty, and an appealing lack of 21st Century irony. This winning compilation joins the dots between his s hits, and several comebacks in the 80s and 90s. Pop history fails to be rewritten, but their goodtime rock will get them laid at least.

Crystal clear recording, and a penchant for either disco or funk are what separate these acts. Palatable sounds for astonishingly empty times. Pop whore ala Madonna? These are solid old-fashioned pop tunes wrapped in solid old-fashioned arrangements, with the odd bit of orchestral drapery, nice guitars, and not a note out of place. This fellow Dave Lee hey, I thought he was one of those noddies in 70s glitter slammers Slade! Lee has sampled chunks of most of his pieces, and expects to get hailed as a potential new Hollywood composer?

There are sample-based artists who have done this thing brilliantly: check the Troublemakers, the Dining Rooms, Snooze. Vanity is the only possible explanation for this flyblown, overblown, preening attempt at another operatic excursion. But they broke up before an album could materialise. One Lung somehow has stayed off the radar, despite releasing a steady flow of self-distributed, promising material over the past few years. One Lung is a one-man-band, making his pieces by delicately sampling his own and a vast history of recorded music.

A One Lung track can easily fuse an atmospheric classical phrase with polyrhythmic jazz percussion and electronic squiggles. Very seldom, however, does his music sound like a join-the-dots attempt at slotting things together. Cleverly, it must be said, he makes cohesive compositions out of the composite parts. Why not a proper version of their album, with extra tracks tacked on for good measure. But this slice of tame guitar pop really sucks. At last, a contemporary country album with a perfect mix of exemplary songwriting skills, detailed lyric extrapolations, and a sound that while deeply nostalgic, manages to convey the subject with both grit and soul.

Like The Eagles without drug habits or schmoozy Californian lifestyles. But that tells us nothing about the genius of what comes out of all that. Imagine a gainfully unemployed, yet creative fellow living in the American mid-West suburbia. Would he make a miserable record? Hell no! This is post-rock in the very best sense: effortlessly experimental yet digestible, and Fog finds his voice fully formed on what is only his second album. Sure, that album landed Radiohead at the top of the pile.

How tiring that must be for poor Thom York and Co. Sound tedious? If at times I yearned for more contributions from guest guitarists Nigel Gavin and Dan Sperber, the horn-based aggregation delivers a varied gumbo of Melhuish originals inspired by but not held captive by the loose-limbed jazz of masters like Don Cherry. My only small gripe is a recording which fails to pack the dynamic punch this music deserves. Something Dangerous treads a hazardous line: like a lot of heavily produced contemporary pop, it involves a number of producers and a pile of different musicians, guest artists and collaborators.

A convincingly boisterous blend of styles and languages, Something Dangerous deserves to make Atlas a global superstar. They produce otherworldly sound; that is, as otherworldly as a remote part of an ancient kauri forest, so hauntingly do the sounds echo our unique environment. On the accompanying DVD, the two talk about their exploration, demonstrate each instrument, and perform pieces from this, and their previous cd.

Which is another way of saying that while it has as much to recommend it as a top-notch new haircut, it could well do with a tattoo or two. And with appreciation of their sophisticated jazz-influenced pop at an all-time high, Everything Must Go feels like an album that Becker and Fagan slipped into with ease.

Rather than the cramped, somewhat shrill arrangements that marked the reunion album, this one capitalises on those qualities that the Dan do best. Almost like an Unplugged Dan, they ease off on the complex arrangements that typify many of their better 70s moments, which reinforces the natural funk swagger of their rhythms and those unmistakably knowing lyrics. Oh, it must feel good to come out the other side of that long mid-age crisis.

Check out the wonderfully primitive, almost punk-like sound of Sam Mataparae with the Rocking Rockers. Rather than a flimsy piecemeal cover, this type of release deserves a proper booklet with song-by-song dissertation. But a word of advice: get some sun, Andy. The fact that they come from Auckland, and that their music has a bite which is sharp of incisor and brutal in an effectively disciplined way makes it something special. Blasted good fun.

Tears were flowing as these songs were hatched. The Brighton three-piece apparently used broken-down old computers and rusting guitars and an ex-girlfriend with a gorgeous voice to patch their album together. Not since the first Portishead album has siren-like female singer been so well matched with visionary musicians. This is guitar music which starts with a whisper and slowly blows into a ferocious gale of sound, only to subside again. Trouble is, when they do song-based stuff, it tends to sound like a luke-warm UB40, who are of course, one of the most ordinary groups of all time.

Which is? Brilliant, dull, ecstatic, weedy, poetic, droning… the Verlaines are still as great as they are awful. For the most part, Young drops his demented melancholia, gets a sense of humour, and turns on the Crazy Horse boogie machine. And it rocks. Buble pronounced Booblay is a Sinatra clone with a few genetic improvements, and a penchant for covering old Queen and Bee Gees songs. Next time? Brilliant and, of course, terribly sad. But at heart, Magnet is the vessel through which Even Johansen a Norwegian based in Scotland expresses his emotions.

The gestures are too big, too bland. But aside from my reservations about political parties getting involved in music enterprise Green Room is a kind of musical manifesto for the Green Partymuch of the music here lacks the edge, the innovation, the subversive tactic, that makes the onward march of art and culture worth pursuing.

Too often, however, the voices sound like an exotic topping for some faceless, nameless boffin endlessly grooving with his computer programmes.

Wherefore art thou, Poco? But it has a raw emotionality that sears the roof off any of the saccharine sentimentality of their forbears. Promising, and full of memorable hooks and sing-along-lines. Back then, they wore it well, but they were always close to self-parody. With all the nutty energy of Prince at his 80s best — combining funk, disco and brash rock moves in one peppy package — Jaxx have moved things forward by taking a further step back.

Like Dave Dobbyn, McArtney has made it to his middle years with dignity intact, and produced an album rich with reflections. Packed with intelligent observations and ironic insights, and the sparse production illuminates those strengths. Undeniably brilliant. Maybe even Kiwi album of the year, already. Clearly Wauters is a gifted player, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. On the other hand, several tracks would make great advertising jingles. As admirable as this project undoubtedly is and popular, given appearances from a vast array of singer-songwriter types I found myself wishing for a more inspired casting call.

Liven things up, for godsakes! He gets a tone that just slides up your spine. Unfortunately, the self-penned material lets the project down. Fine energy, but too little to say. Hit Me - Jah Wobble - Heaven & Earth (Vinyl that one-off, though, Terranova has the skill to entertain for 60 minutes with his mutant vocodered vocals and dance-urging breakbeat skills.

Unlike the before 'The Beatles' and the after 'Abbey Road' this is a rough and unengaging selection of tunes, and after all these years it's only really the strange emotional curvature of 'Don't Let Me Down' and the beauty of 'Across The Universe' that warrant investigation. Trainspotters might will enjoy the thoroughly remixed tracks, the substituted and omitted songs, and the extensive liner notes. Though the minute extra disc of fly-on-the-wall studio chatter and rehearsal snippets is of documentary interest, I can't help but feel that the 'real' Let It Be is the film.

An extended edition of that, warts-and-all, with lots of footage of arguing Beatles, would happily replace this sorry package. LRB were an Aussie band that did the business: 25 million records sold, international success. But despite the gorgeous three-part harmonies and the catchy songs, there's still something suburban and safe about them, and they're all trotted out here in front of a very quiet audience, perfunctory yet perfect renditions of a whole lot of songs you didn't know you knew so well: It's A Long Way There, Happy Anniversary, Home On Monday, Cool Change, Reminiscing… Those of a certain age and disposition will buy it, knowing full well that it's about as trendy as grandma's underwear.

When records are this good, they don't offer up descriptions on a plate. The English group have been called 'progressive rock', but there's nothing instrumentally virtuosic enough to justify that claim. Instead, it's a beautifully organic, carefully orchestrated, moody rock album that certainly does have its origins in the 70s, when 'longplayers' were schematic works rather than just a collection of songs. The way Guy Garvey's vocals are delivered and recorded do carry ghostly reminders of Peter Gabriel's early solo outings, as does the density of the overdubs and the very blue-eyed soul that underpins these melancholy songs.

Other antecedents include Talk Talk, whose later music carried with it a similar mix of powerfully emotional songwriting and interesting use of studio sound constructions. One of the best of For most, an Al Green 'best of' collection will be enough to allow an occasional dip into his juicy, unique Memphis soul.

Still, I Can't Stop is an event: it's an almost complete recreation of his 70s sound, from the reunion with his producer Willie Mitchell to the recruitment of many of the same musicians… even the same vocal microphone a No. While it's doubtful that any of the songs here will attain classic status, it's solid stuff, and a joy just to hear his astonishing vocals. It's that testifying, wailing, grunting, amazingly expressive voice paired with the light, fruity Memphis funk that makes you want to play it again and again.

Well, let's start with what's right. Equally, some of the orchestrations approach the finest of his more reflective work of the 80s. What's wrong is that, for the most part, Morrison's lyrics have become worse than self-parody, and more like the work of a man suffering the early stages of dementia. He Album) a genius, no doubt about it, but while this album improves on his dire recent output, it's recommended that the curious tread warily, and block their ears to the lyrical waffling.

Timed perfectly for Summer notthese largely electronic soundscapes are malevolent, poisoned, horror movie scenarios from the darkside. Powered by slow, lumbering drums and bass, their distant cousin is Manchester group Scorn.

Scare yourself to death. But this Christchurch producer - otherwise known as Nava Thomas - has made an album that despite an adept way with spacious grooves, fails to assert its personality, or its sophistication in the way that, say, the 50Hz record did. Still, it's enjoyably fortified for Summer usage. Really awful. The first album under his own name - what does this guy DO, exactly?

It is also very slick, and very empty. Nicely spruced-up package for Che Fu completists and nostalgists only, featuring an additional disc of redundant remixes and live renditions. You've got to give it to Tori: song for song, she's built up an exceptional body of work. Trouble is, with Amos, you've got to take it warts and all. These songs are mostly confessionals, and you often feel like you're eavesdropping on her most private moments.

She has a tendency to overdo the histrionics, and if the songs weren't so beautifully structured, and so personalised, her brand of overwrought balladry could easily slip into the cheese zone occupied by Whitney Houston and thousands like her.

But Houston never sang a song like 'Me And A Gun', an account of rape that's still uncomfortable listening all these years later. Despite her obvious debt to Joni Mitchell with a little bit of Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush on the sideshe sings with her own voice, and Amos can rightly be proud of these ambitious little mini-operas.

And the cream of her work is here. Like American band the Violent Femmes, British lad Bragg struck a chord with Kiwis in the tumult of the 80s, with his musically austere but humanistic songs about the politics of relationships, and unflinching observations about the political climate of the Thatcher years.

For anyone wanting some Bragg in their collection, this double compendium is perfect. Mostly just his honking voice and guitar accompaniment - the second disc elaborates with some iffy orchestrations on some tracks - Bragg's resolutely one-dimensional presentation taunts today's short attention spans, but this is surprisingly enjoyable stuff.

Comes with a limited edition bonus cd of rarities. The trouble is: Kiwi reggae fans have never really moved on from his Bobness, and Katchafire, as friendly as their ambling reggae is, are simply rehashing old sounds and sentiments.

Nostalgia is a deadly disease, and these pieces really have nothing to add to Bob Marley's original template. Worse, they just rekindle old cliches about reggae being the sanctified music, and the marijuana being next to Godliness. Stuck in the past. Alicia Keys has superficial similarities to all this, but her innate talent shines out like a beacon.

The Diary Of Alicia Keys has the kind of old-fashioned soul approach that does an old smoocher like Bobby Womack proud. Occasionally, a certain pomposity shows through well, she does have a classical background, why not start with a self-important piano introduction?

But it's hard not to drown in admiration. Of course it's heavy on those skanking Wellington grooves, but we can hardly blame them for pushing that particular angle. At least it's winningly free of the usual clunkers.

The book is a graphic delight, while the dvd is divided between music clips and short films. No wonder this package was given out to attendees of the Lord Of The Rings premiere. An assured and convincing exposition of Kiwi talent. Still, there's a market for this kind of stuff, and Micatone at least allow for a muscular instrumental blend of live and programmed elements the double bass and drums are particularly enjoyableand Lisa Bassenge's vocals and lyrics - while stylised past the point of pastiche - have a certain charm.

Distinguishing characteristics are the result of fusing Pryor's singer-songwriter sensibility with contributions from members of Fat Freddy's Drop, The Black Seeds, Trinity Roots and many others. What may have started out as an introverted Kiwi folk artefact is now a sophisticated and rewarding hybrid species.

They made some great, epic acid techno, perfect for those dance parties of the early 90s. Where they beat most of their contemporaries hands down, however, is that they add some deliciously flimsy, yet perfect outlines of pop songs to go with their chemically-fuelled trippiness.

This double best-of charts their development, and it's aged remarkably well. The first seven tracks highlights are Jet Jaguar's playful lounge perversion and Mephisto Jones' cyber-Portishead are full of crunchy beats and juicy grooves and enough computer tricknology to keep the boffins happy. A product of Wellington's vivid and exploratory jazz scene, NZ-based Ghanian songwriter Adu approaches traditional subjects notably, love with vivid imagery, yet her delivery - droll, expressionless - adds a unique twist.

To top it off, the backing including Adu herself on piano, and a lineup which includes cello, guitar and percussion has a woody, chamber jazz feel that is unique in a Kiwi context, and is like a small jazz orchestra, loose-limbed, yet structured enough to provide perfect counterpoint to these special songs.

On this collection divided between others' tracks the German group have remixed, and their own tracks remixed by others, everything comes out of the wash sounding Album) much like the only Boojoo Bajou album, 'Satta'. That is: low-down dubby grooves with some bluesy John Lee Hooker-style moves and the odd flourish of jazz guitar. Speaking of which, there's the obligatory Tosca track here, but Boozoo Bajou that's Florian Seyberth and Peter Heider to you also re-do the work of hip-hop group Common, and the jazz-oriented Truby Trio.

That other supergroup of the contemporary lounge fusion set, Thievery Corporation, also do their thing to a Boozoo track. And yet… it's strangely predictable, completely unchallenging. As Summer slowly wanes, many barbecue parties will be humming to this around the land.

The Germans can't muster a lyric or a spoken word in English that sounds anywhere near as natural as our own groove fusionists, but they make up for it in sonic detail that thrills on a halfway decent hi-fi, and Trio Electrico's influences are wide and deep enough to take in everything from 'broken beat' jazz to the kind of organ-fuelled funk that New Orleans group The Meters turned into the tastiest Hit Me - Jah Wobble - Heaven & Earth (Vinyl on the planet.

Eclectic, but it holds together all its component parts like they were suckled on the same wet nurse. Ten years ago, a compilation from Barcelona would have been predictably - if entertainingly - Spanish. An expansive double cd, it samples hip-hop of several different persuasions quite early in proceedings, but as the set progresses the sheer scope and eclecticism of songs and styles becomes arresting.

Many of these tracks have a decided Muslim bent, though the styles range from rock to acoustic to melodic pop and dance. Yet somehow, it all holds together on a compilation that rewards dipping into on a regular basis.

For this mix cd, Mayer typically pulls out all the stops to display both his exquisite dj skills, and the talents behind a range of cuts mostly otherwise available only on 12" vinyl.

This is an exposition of the best of 21st Century techno, which is sensible enough to keep on its dancing shoes, but despite that still intent on carving out improvements to the art form. Most contemporary facets of intelligent techno are represented. Despite the magnificent crunchy beats and repetitive rhythms, there's often a canny and alluring melodic line running through these pieces, or a deft vocal that sensibly steers clear of the penchant house music has for wringing every bit of fake emotion out of sampled divas.

This is way more subtle than that, and a treat for audio buffs, with its attention to sonic detail and sound imagery good enough to eat. Moments of blissful skanking are interrupted by interminable, tortuous 'dancehall'-style blatherings, and cliched MC-ings from a global cast. It would help if they ordained to join the 21st Century. Comprising dancefloor hits and misses, it's an impressively manicured set from the American producer. As the title suggests, the DJs are asked to play their five favourite tracks of all time.

As chill-out froth goes, this stuff rises to the surface. It's a miraculous resurrection from an artist who seems set on breaking all the rules. Clearly hitting his artistic peak, Shayne Carter has bettered his celebrated Straitjacket Fits work by cleverly resolving his bewildering influences: in the Carter Cosmos, 70s funk feels right at home nestling up against Kraut rock repetition and hip-hop production tricks. But this clever blending would be so much nothing without the superior soul, the blazing intensity, and the spine-tingling subtlety that Carter brings to the art of song.

With three slap-dunk classics in Only One That Matters, Case and Lucky One and a heartbreaking out-of-character ballad in Finalitythis is the album where Carter surrenders to his melodic needs, without sacrificing his exploratory invention. And that tricky little guitar solo on Concentration is just, well… perfect.

There's a whole scene of socially deviant young men making electronic music from clicks and creaks and blips and other tiny fragments hitherto discernible only to members of the insect kingdom. Wellington's Jet Jaguar, however, is one of a select group who uses these techniques to his own, very human ends. Highly crafted and tremendously sly, his music is sexy enough to dance to - if you could imagine doing the Swaying Preying Mantis - and full of subtle winks and smirks. And it's quite lovely, in its alien way.

Which is very confusing, but unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Most noticeably, Is Love represents a diversion from his slightly more overt groove aesthetic into a highly electronic universe, where the faint echo of a voice can sound like it's beaming in from outer space.

Ennio Morricone's work is like that, so deftly does he drape his wispy melodies across a piece. And unlike those overly illustrative Hollywood composers, this year-old Italian thinks and breathes a sexily evocative musical language that makes him the perfect victim of the latest remix jape.

The first volume of this project hit our shores mid last year. The second is a massive double set featuring re-workings by loads of unknowns and a few 21st century electronic geniuses, like Herbert in his Doctor Rockit guise, and Japanese legend Haruomi Hosono. German label Compost specialises in an increasingly tepid bowl of latte, but these 27 remixers seem unable to defuse the central charm of Morricone's work, whether it springs from his major motion picture soundtracks, or his gorgeously daft minor commissions.

Much of the music we're asked to view as 'jazz' some ten years later is, in fact, an amalgam or, perhaps, a mutation of 'acid jazz'. Which is a problem, because this music ignores the basic tenet of jazz: improvisation. Until you listen carefully, that is. There's a British sensibility here.

Basslines are distended, and the mixes are clean and pliable and ready for both the club and the lounge, not butchered like most American music for the narrow dynamic range of radios. The gospel-influenced Young Disciples, or the ganja-soaked political 'raps' of early Galliano, are oddly appealing. Despite having ushered in a kind of new jazzy uniformity, many of these cuts represent a unique point in modern music, where influences from jazz to house to Latin to funk and dub morphed into a popular new fusion.

Take a listen to the follow-up. Joining the legion of groups who fail to improve on a killer debut, London duo Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns have clearly laboured over their second album.

But where Simple Things took you on a deeply moving melancholic journey, When It Falls is bogged down in a kind of stasis which suggests ennui rather than the soul food I'm sure it intended to gift us.

Despite suspicions that at times it was just too slick, too lush, Simple Things seduced and cajoled you into its gorgeous cotton-wool cloudiness: the kind of rainy Sunday mood you just don't want to escape from. When It Falls tries so hard for a repeat performance creamy string arrangements, filter-tipped male vocals, sweetly bee-stung female vocals, throbbing electric pianobut while the mood is similar, it fails to sweep you off your feet and elevate you beyond its moodiness.

And it lacks the superb flow and tension build-and-release of that still-fresh debut. Zero 7 can now comfortably join other great one-offs - Massive Attack, Tricky - whose difficult second album defeated their world-conquering plans.

Play it twice, and you're hooked: this sizeable Melbourne aggregation eight-piece with numerous guest spots bring an almost autistic naivety that hasn't been as pronounced in pop since the Beach Boys' infamous Smile album.

Like Auckland's Tokey Tones, AIH are part of a macro-movement highlighting a kind of semi-unhinged, over-sensitive, book-wormish charm. This can only be a good thing. Aubele is a genuine Argentinian whose demos came to the attention of American dons of chill out, the Thievery Corporation. Aubele's debut album has one distinguishing characteristic: his fluid, flamenco-style guitar work.

Sadly, his fretboard fingering adds a noodly dimension to a Thievery Corporation production that already sounds very much like their own work.

Its superficially appealing mix of tango and dub and cooing female vocalists soon palls; these 'worldy' grooves have sprayed too much toxic deodorant on their armpits, and now they can't raise a sweat. So they take a Valium instead, and lie beside the pool.

Not as much fun as a power cut. At its purest, soul isn't so much a style as a feeling. Unfortunately, too many contemporary soul stylists get every one of Stevie Wonder's vocal ululations and tremulations down pat, without really 'getting' anything.

Which makes Philadelphia star Musiq's third outing all the happier: it's a deeply soulful thing in intent and style, and a delicious sounding thing, too, as he croons his way through an inventive set of tunes with that smooth, chocolate box voice that takes all the right moves from his heroes. It helps that this production is carefully crafted and full of quirks that make it a more fulsome listening experience.

Coming after the Celtic-influenced, U2-like histrionics of his early work, and the tricky production distractions of his later albums under the name Gramsciit's refreshing to hear the man with just an acoustic guitar, voice and tortured muse, expressing himself as he must.

The problem with this pretentiously titled album is that McLaney continues to wear his influences too blatantly. This time, it's manic-depressive 70s folk singer Nick Drake and 80s melancholic madman Mark Hollis of Talk Talk who figure large in his sound and delivery. Eventual suicidal drug casualty Drake was depressed enough to live his songs; likewise, the Hollis persona is wracked with a larger than life religious zeal that makes his cracked voice meaningful.

A brave try, but McLaney's songs aren't quite strong enough for the listener to want to get right inside them, and his vocal delivery still tends towards the theatrical rather than existential. Having already given a good number of memorable vocal lines and delicate nuances to electronic alchemist Matthew Herbert over the past few years, she strikes out on her own with a startlingly original work that's at once wilfully experimental, and coyly seductive.

Using all the computer technology available to her, she collaborates with the likes of Herbert, and other instrumentalists who provide deliciously spongey double bass lines and arcing trumpet murmurs… only for Siciliano to load them into her computer and mutilate them. The result is an album of intimate, innovative songs where - like Bjork before her on Vespertine - she wrestles some intuitive sense from the insect chatter of the latest technology.

This is rich, ripe, sensual torch music meeting the cyborg inner workings of her hard drive, battling it out and coming up with a remarkable, rewarding record. Driving his 4WD right in the middle of the road, TonganChic is exactly what Album) fans will be expecting: a selection of pleasantly funky house music with its soul, disco and jazz influences written in dayglo on the DJ's t-shirt.

Nothing too startling, then. And though its retro flavour is faintly appealing, the final impression is that there's really nothing more going on here than a beat to shimmy to. Which is exactly what many bars and clubs want: music that isn't 'about' anything, music that has nothing to say. Their debut album ultimately builds to a crescendo of fast, dance-oriented drill'n'hammer rhythms, but on their way there they fashion a new hybrid form that's got an unusually high dose of all those trace elements fans of songs still appreciate: you know, things like melody, harmony.

In fact, together with a recording that's crisp and inviting, they show an unusual aptitude for creating all the essential building blocks of what old-fashioned music fans call 'composition'. The Upbeats know how to create almost filmic atmospheres, and marry them adeptly to those taut beats. The only stumbling blocks are a couple of those soul diva vocals that Wellington bands insist on laying on top of otherwise decent-sounding instrumental grooves.

It's a brave and worthy venture: Involve is a label specialising in a very niche market, but one that's fit to explode at any time. Other labels in the game include German names like City Centre Offices and Morr Music, and the style can be paraphrased as a 21st Century equivalent to the 'shoe-gazing' scene of the mids. What does it represent? Shy boys with electronic toys, coming out of their bedrooms and mixing it up with some real instruments and even shock, horror a little 'singing'.

There's a ton of introspection here, lots of drifting ambience, and a thoroughly absorbing mixture of man and machine, emotion and electrode. Drum'n'bass, dub, jazz and funk all figured in their universe. Their third album, however, sees the duo losing one member, gaining another, and turning into yet another outfit manfully striding from instrumental grooves to actual songs.

And failing. There's too much refinement here. In this product range, the emulsifiers have taken over the asylum. It's tasteful and enjoyably 'musical', and leader Lindsay Wakem's throbbing electric piano creates a warm blanket of sound, but these guys fails to bring anything new to the jazz table.

Well, imagine if - following a budget blow-out - that wee garage band had to take over the compositional duties for the whole movie. Auckland five-piece Salon Kingsadore could be that band on this nine-track introduction. Like an imaginary instrumental surf group hired by David Lynch for some surreal homage to an endless wrap-up party, Salon Kingsadore might reference groups like Stereolab and even Tortoise, but come out sounding just like themselves.

Presumably, because it's quite hard and quite fast, and it's supposedly 'played' rather than programmed, there's some adrenalin flowing at their 'legendary' gigs. On cd, we might as well be listening to machines, with predictably sequenced piston-beats and dull chord progressions.

Oh, and the odd weak vocal. Cullum's whiskey-soaked voice adds spunk to a genre previously atrophied by hotel foyer lethargy. Sickeningly, five of these tunes are self-penned, and they're equal to the task: the wry observations of a young man, powered by spritely pianistics and a voice that seems to have been around forever.

Undeniably a home recording, it benefits from the grainy, close-up, slightly squalid ambience. It's an agreeably intimate project, and Hakkarainen has an easy way with classic bi-polar pop forms. Sounding like he slept a century, then got out of bed to render the composition he wrote in a deep dream state complete with earthy orchestrations, country twinges and sundry sound effectsSounds Like Siberia is a slight but very gratifying Winter delight. And as a bonus, we've got that cute arctic accent.

All the classic Prince signatures are here: the taut funk moves, the jaunty arpeggiated melodies, the clever overlaying of acoustic instruments, the girl-like squeals and falsetto wailing. Fans will cream themselves over this unexpected career-saving manoeuvre, but I hesitate to laud Musicology as a complete return-to-form. While it's never less than a highly skilled exposition of Prince's talents, it's lacking the hormone-driven spirit and sheer sex smell of his 80s output. Well, he IS a Jehovah's Witness, these days.

The genius is still sparking away in here somewhere, however, and there's an organic assuredness to the new Prince that the old Prince covered up with young bluster. Yeah, right. Wellington-based composer Sheehan, on the heels of his award-winning debut, Paradigm Shift, gets all cosmic on us. If it had even a tenuous connection to those pioneering space rock records of the 70s, it may have been worth investigation. Instead, Sheehan floats around his tiny blue bubble with all the imagination of a burnt-out asteroid.

This multi-instrumentalist is undoubtedly skilled, but so lush are the textures and mundane the beats that they sound like they're sharing a feather duvet with a year-old Enigma album. Such is the ultimate vacuity. His previous work incorporated folk music and iconic Kiwi-isms into a rap framework.

Now, as Trillion, Lloyd's latest project has become even more ambitious, employing a poetic approach that will be familiar to fans of introspective English groups, from Matt Johnson's The The to Massive Attack.

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