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Music Picks

[whitespace] Picks by Simone Stein

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Deep Dish
Junk Science

Nostalgia for house music's celebratory past infuses Junk Science, but that doesn't mean that the album sounds old or exhausted. Drawing on the trills and flourishes of disco, this is undoubtedly ecstasy music, full of joyful exhortations, shiny textures, metronomic bass and sampled divas. Although it may sound regressive to beat freaks in search of the experimental edge, its sheer vibratory beauty is a respite from the furious squelching dystopianism that pervades so much new music. The album's best track is the first one, "The Future of the Future," with Everything but the Girl's soulful Tracey Thorn urging the listener to ever-greater heights of poignant optimism.

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Q-Burns Abstract Message
Feng Shui

Soothing and eclectic, the combination of trip-pop, acid jazz and world music on Feng Shui is uplifting without being insipidly New Agey. A combination of tinkly melodic synthesizers, lulling beats, warm, organic strings and chanting voices from all over the globe, the album delivers a soul-caressing sonic balm. The title song is especially lovely, with a sultry female voice speaking in French over a spare techno backdrop. Also wonderful is "Kinda Picky," with its Middle Eastern singing segueing into an echoey, abstractly melodic seesaw. The incantatory positivity of "A.S.T." recalls the merger between psychedelic rock and electronic music of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses--a hybrid that's rarely done so well and naturally anymore.

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Various Artists

If you're not a die-hard fan, keeping up with electronic music's mutating microgenres is nearly impossible. Modulations, the album accompaniment to Iara Lee's documentary of the same name, is both a quick tour through the music's evolution and a great classics collection in its own right. Starting with Donna Summer's prototypical aural orgasm, "I Feel Love," Modulations proceeds with hip-hop and electro pioneer Africa Bambaataa and Detroit techno hero Juan Atkins, then moves on through Chicago house, hard-core jungle, ambient and trip-hop. The abrupt transitions between moods and genres would likely irritate electronica devotees, but they're not really the intended audience for this album. Still, no matter how knowledgeable you are, Derrick May's gorgeous house classic "Strings of Life" is always worth another listen.

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From the November 16-29, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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