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Option.FM
Electronic Transmissions
Moonshine

I couldn't wait to unwrap Option.FM's Electronic Transmissions compilation if only to see how DJ Spooky makes out with Burro Banton. Yet it was Tranquility Bass' "We All Want to Be Free" that had me snaking around the room for days. The tune is built on hand claps, a steady drum pulse and a gauzy vocal refrain--not much, but it works. Gus Gus' "Why" claims a dreamy sweet female vocal shadowed by a languorous keyboard figure. Color Filter's "Children of Summer" is guided by an attractive acoustic guitar figure and hushed synths. As for DJ Spooky's collaborative effort with the Burro boy, it's special. The latter's grating vocal approach is tempered by the former's ethereal music. DJ Snow's "Frequency 019" begins with an airline transmission, then sails off into the wild blue yonder. Wordless vocals breeze by, floating above expansive sheets of synthesizer. (Nicky Baxter)


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The Murmurs
Blender
MCA

We've seen an explosion of baby-voiced girl bands in the past few years, and the Murmurs aren't among the best musicians, singers or lyricists of the bunch. Still, there's something irresistible about the duo--its members have a frank, wry insouciance coupled with addictive stripped-down melodies and a total lack of pretension. Ranging from the sunny power pop of "La Di Da" (about a stuck-up former friend) to the sweet pathos of "Genius" to the adolescent angst of "Misfit," the Murmurs' songs are about the everyday dramas of girls' lives. k.d. lang, the girlfriend of bandmember Leisha Hailey, produces four songs, and she lends a hint of earthy twang--though she didn't work on the one generally country tune on the album, called, appropriately, "Country Song." (Michelle Goldberg)


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Outgrabe
Love and Death
Boojum Productions

This San Francisco quintet takes its name from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, in which Humpty Dumpty tells Alice that "outgribing is something between bellowing and whistling." Although that's a creative source, it's a terrible description of the band that offers what it aptly describes as Renaissance rock. Composed of classically trained musicians, Outgrabe merges undeniable musical skill with a combination of '60s psychedelia, dulcet folk and faerie rock. Christopher St. John's weathered voice dances with Tess O'Connor's ghostly smooth tones, giving their rich songs a magical quality. Dark topics fill the intelligently composed album, including vampires ("We Don't Die") and the end of the human race ("Under a Harvest Moon"). Seemingly influenced by Jefferson Airplane, Outgrabe likely chose its slightly cryptic name in tribute to the band infamous for "White Rabbit." (Sarah Quelland)

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From the September 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro.

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