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[whitespace] Reviews by Michelle Goldberg

DJ Spooky
Riddim Warfare
Outpost Recordings

Musician and critic DJ Spooky is an electronic-music innovator who writes like a semiotics Ph.D., and his far-ranging intelligence unites the wildly disparate elements that make up Riddim Warfare. Combining propulsive experimental hip-hop with free-form ambient collages, Riddim Warfare is an album to get lost in, a complex, mesmerizing torrent of synthetic sounds. Take, for instance, "Post-Human Sophistry," which starts as a cool, downbeat jazz melody, and segues into mournful, operatic chanting before unleashing a barrage of rough, intensely cinematic drum 'n' bass. Like a brilliant jazz soloist, DJ Spooky takes songs apart and then pieces them back together, meandering toward total abstraction before steering the listener back to familiar musical territory.

The Murmurs

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 the maybe-love-song "Genius" to the adolescent angst of "Misfit," the Murmurs' songs are about the everyday dramas of girls' lives. k.d. lang, the girlfriend of band-member 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."

Pansy Division
Absurd Pop Song Romance

Divided between bitter ditties about the impossibility of real love and sweetly maudlin tunes about the craving for real love, San Francisco queercore pioneers Pansy Division's new album is composed of jangly, driving pop-punk tunes about gay angst. Though Absurd Pop Song Romance, Pansy Division's seventh album, is their first as a four-piece instead of a three-piece, it's still spare and a bit raw. Absurd Pop Song Romance is absurdly catchy, but would be forgettable were it not for the incisive lyrics, which veer between lacerating cynicism and hopeful romanticism. Especially amusing is "Vicious Beauty," a song about seeing a high school bully years later in a gay porn film.

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From the September 21-October 4, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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