On record :: KJHK new music reviews

DJ Rels
"Theme For A Broken Soul"

Ah, the multi-faceted existence of Madlib. It would seem that the man has never met a beat he didn't like, nor an alias he could not somehow make his own, far away from the confines of his primary moniker. Which brings on the inevitability of multiple side projects: no matter how many legions of fans drool on their pillows at night waiting for the next Madlib incarnation, at least one project will fail simply for its inability to stand out among other, better work from the same name. And so I give you DJ Rels: a broken-beat exile forced from his rightful place in West London where his more worthy peers (Afronaught, 4hero, Bugz In The Attic) have spread the broken beat gospel for a number of years now. From a distance, the umbrella of broken beat seems a good one for Madlib to operate from under -- elements of dub and jazz fusion mingle with those of house and techno, underpinned with an affinity for weird structure and polyrhythmic punch. But in cribbing notes from those he thanks unapologetically in the album's liner notes, Madlib fails to capitalize on his own individuality. For every "Don't U Know," the disc's frenetic and fuzzy opener, there's a yawnfest like "Waves." Cemented as it is in Madlib's foundations of jazz and hip-hop, Theme For A Broken Soul is still a respectable experiment -- just not a remarkable foray, which means that Rels may be served best as a bedroom-production pleasure.
Phil Torpey
Breakfast for Beatlovers, 9-noon Fridays

Guided By Voices
"Half Smiles of the Decomposed"

Although Guided By Voices have given the world some great albums over the years, it seems that the name has become more important than the music. Ever since "Isolation Drills," leader Robert Pollard has put so much emphasis on doing the unexpected that it's flown back in his face, and he's been doing the same thing over and over again. It seems like Pollard (who, to his credit, is almost 50) has been trying too hard, too long.
Fortunately, the band's 'final' album, "Half Smiles of the Decomposed," presents some moments of redemption for GBV. In particular, the opening track is awesome, calling back the days of Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes and a more subtle-minded, melody-oriented Pollard. "Girls Of Wild Strawberries" is another standout, probably the closest thing to a simple pop tune Pollard has done since "Glad Girls," although not as good. From there, it starts to get pretty shaky, overly relying on the more or less standard GBV formula, snatching up Zeppelin and Who riffs like they were complimentary breath mints at his favorite restaurant. The album does finish strong with a handful of solid tunes but when it's all said and done, "Half Smiles..." doesn't measure up in the GBV catalog, and it's certainly not the out-with-a-bang finale that fans will be expecting. But it's not like he's really going anywhere. He'll put out another ten albums next year as The Blue Fish Hook Renaissance, or whatever he calls his band.
Cameron Hawk
Plow the Fields, Saturdays 2-4 pm


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