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Gift Horse
Self -Titled
Pinch Hit Records

Skillfully walking the line between rough garage rock and smart indie rock, this four-piece guitar-driven band from L.A. has a distinctive sound. Bret Levick's seemingly weary voice gives the band a confident coolness as he delivers his clever, often biting, lyrics. The album begins with the jaded "Excess": "Give me a 700-year-old rug/Give me my very own designer drug/I need to hear my song on an elevator, baby/... Give me excess and all its ugliness with all its empty promises/Gimme, gimme, gimme." The album also offers quality songs about feeling insignificant ("Small"), about a junkie friend ("Heather's Arrest") and about a girl who spends her days drinking and smoking in a café ("Coffee Queen"). (Sarah Quelland)

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Crooked Path
Which Way Is Up
Dogday

Funk Daddy, Dee-Lyrious and J-Skee, collectively known as Crooked Path, mine familiar rap terrain: Jeep-rockin' beats, street wise-guy lyrics delivered with big-time attitude. On Which Way Is Up (Dogday), "Feel Like a Nut" and "Young Playa" are littered with pimp-daddy characters. Things are pretty skimpy on the musical front. "You Ain't Knowin' " is perhaps the most interesting number, with its buzzing synth bass holding down the bottom and chiming vibes and simulated harp wafting above. Funk Daddy possesses the most flow; lyrics spill from his lips with disarming ease. On "Bad Mutha Fo' Ya" J-Skee delivers the goods with a taut, restrained style. More understated than his mates, Skee seems to intuitively grasp the notion that a good rapper doesn't have to blow hard to be hard. (Nicky Baxter)

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Squarepusher
Budakhan Mindphone
Nothing

Electronic music's answer to bebop, Squarepusher pushes music to the furthest levels of abstraction, pulling back right before the sophisticated rhythms threaten to explode into meaningless noise. Beginning with a tender, ambient dreamscape reminiscent of an old Orb track, Budakhan Mindphone initially sounds like a departure from the psychedelic mania of Squarepusher's last release, Music Is One Rotted Note. Soon, though, the chaos kicks in, with melodies dissolving and recombining under strata of complicated drum figures. Free of singing or vocal samples, Budakhan Mindphone is neither the type of soothing drum 'n' bass that plays unobtrusively in chill out rooms nor the kind of squelching hardstep that works a frenzied crowd. Occasionally, its percussive intricacies come across like a coldly intellectual exercise, but when the pieces coalesce, the confusion gives way to bits of brilliance. (Michelle Goldberg)

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From the April 8-14, 1999 issue of Metro.

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