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Mysteries of Funk

One of the most revered figures in jungle, often called the "godfather of drum 'n' bass," Grooverider pioneered the furious, squelching, dystopian sound that's come to dominate dance floors worldwide. So it's a bit of surprise that his new album, Mysteries of Funk, is so jazzy and melodic. Although tracks like "Where's Jack the Ripper" explode with the expected machine-gun rhythms and echoing, bombastic bass, other songs have a languorous, forlorn funk reminiscent of Tricky and Massive Attack. Woven into the pulsating polyrhythmic textures of "Time and Space" are warm tendrils of saxophone, and some songs feature crooning divas and samples of scatting. None of these tactics means that Grooverider's just recycling tired trip-hop and acid-jazz tropes--this is a fascinating, original album, drum 'n' bass to dream to as well as to dance to.

Aluminum Tunes
Drag City

Stereolab's third extras compilation, Aluminum Tunes, is both a must-have rarities collection for die-hard Stereolab fans and a perfect introduction to the band for pop-music dilettantes. The set's two CDs feature 25 songs culled from 7-inch B-sides, compilation tracks, remixes and the entire album Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center, which Stereolab composed to accompany a New York City art installation. Like all Stereolab releases, the cerebral ear candy on Aluminum Tunes combines sugary European lounge-pop with irreverent analog synth ectoplasm, orchestral flourishes and long interludes of droning, enveloping, hypnotic washes of almost white noise. This is both an intriguing, multifaceted collage and a soothing, escapist sound bath.

Various Artists
The Perfect Beats
Tommy Boy

When musicians, critics and fans reminisce about electronic music, they often lionize the early days of New York hip-hop and electro and European synth bands. But for those of us who were still little kids in the early '80s, following such trajectories can be rough without the benefit of a deep record collection. That's why The Perfect Beats is so valuable--this four-CD compilation is a veritable guided tour of the old school from 1980 to 1985, including tracks from Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, Chaka Khan, Herman Kelly and Life, New Order and Yaz. In retrospect, the overlap between the New Wave European groups and the Bronx pioneers is amazing--it's like hearing the sonic blueprint for our own decade.

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From the October 19-November 1, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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