re:CDs - La Isla Amigos



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Los Amigos Invisibles


Arepa 3000


[Luaka Bop Records]

Blasting off into the uncharted regions of outer space, strange noises

suddenly spout from the control panel radio. Trying to tune the garbled

voice which you assume is the voice of the ground command center, you

realize the scratchy male voice coaching your ascent into darkness is

speaking in Spanish. Fumble with the levels and turn a few knobs - this

trip is brought to you by Los Amigos Invisibles with their latest release,

Arepa 3000.

Subtitled "A Venezuelan Journey Into Space," Los Amigos

Invisibles pack tunes with lots of spacey noises and funky keyboard riffs,

molding an album that combines witty Spanish lyrics with giddy disco

grooviness. Arepa 3000 sounds a bit like Jamiroquai, but perhaps

more so like Brazil's late-'60s psychedelic music gurus Os Mutantes (whose

music has been re-released on Luaka Bop, the same label carries Los Amigos).

Though the first track, "Arepa 3000," bounces in familiar,

danceable style, the rest of Arepa 3000 flows like a vacation from

more "traditional" salsa-like tunes that are easily recognized by music

lovers outside the Latin American sphere to a hip, Venezuelan bachelor pad

straight out of Woody Allen's futuristic, comedic freak-out, Sleeper.

Los Amigos Invisibles warp time and pop culture, mocking the

cheesier aspects of disco by repeating funky beats, hideously harmonizing

backing vocals and bass-laden Barry White-esque affirmations. Al mismo

tiempo (at the same time), Arepa 3000 displays smooth musicianship

from keyboardist Armando Figueredo, drummer Juan Manuel Roura, lead

vocalist Julio Briceño, guitarist José Luis Pardo, bassist José Rafael

Torres and Percussionist Mauricio Arcas.

These boys can giggle while they jam, as exhibited on

"Cuchi-Cuchi," where Briceño coos, "Mami yo te quiero sabes que no soy

perverso / Cuchi-cuchi baby! Cuchi-cuchi baby! / No quiero plata, yo no

quiero tu dinero / Cuchi-cuchi baby! Cuchi-cuchi baby! / Solo necesito un

Cuchi-cuchi!!!" ("Mom, I want you to know I'm not perverted ... I don't

want silver, I don't want your money ... I just need a Cuchi-cuchi!!!")

Other galactic gems include the hip "Masturbation Session" and "Mami Te

Extraño," both of which feature silly, group choruses surrounded by "Play

That Funky Music" vibes.

Arepa 3000 is truly a Venezuelan party in the sky,

rocketing music lovers on a journey filled with glittery Spanish rhythms

and euphonious eargasms. [Rachel Metz]


Do or Die


Victory


[Virgin]

Do or Die, best known for their platinum-selling single, "Po'

Pimp," has released their third album in four years, Victory. And in

the four years since "Po' Pimp," this Chicago trio has yet to create

anything substantial.

One word keeps coming into mind when listening to this album -

formula. There are seventeen tracks on the album, produced by five

different people, yet the songs have almost nothing to distinguish

themselves from each other. A saving grace for many albums with a lack of

substance is that they work as good party music, and here still it fails.

Do or Die seem to insist on using beats that are faster than their vocals.

The problem here is that their beats and their vocal styles clash so much

you end up more confused than energized. For songs like "In a Mode" and

"Stay Focused," you wish you could just sit these guys down while they're

in the studio and say, "It's perfectly OK to not use a 150 BPM beat. Lots

of other people use slower beats too."

Even more unforgivable is the utter lack of any imagination at

all. As a response to men-bashing songs from TLC and Destiny's Child, they

bring us "Keep it Real." We can ignore the cliché title for now and just

focus on its message. What is the message? You can boil it down to, "I'm

not giving you ho's any money." Don't expect much else from the other

tracks.

Victory fits into the category where if you like this

formula, you might like it. Some of the beats are catchy, and the album as

a whole is not wretchedly bad. But little else can be said. [Kevin Lee]


Dar Williams


The Green World


[Razor and Tie Entertainment]

There's nothing like musical foliage, no matter the genre, and

the right tunes can make your aural tendre croppes grow really massive and

green.

This conclusion, reached after listening to Dar Williams'

latest album, The Green World, holds true throughout her latest

folk-rock creation, where songs grow like well-tended grass bathed by

Williams' clear, breathy vocals and light, silky instrumentation.

As Williams' first release since 1997, The Green World

delves into a variety of personal-yet-universal themes devoid of ambiguity

or artistic pretentions. She is honest and unapolagetic as she moves

through life lessons, many of which are illustrated through metaphors of

gods, ship captains and Yoko Ono. Williams' songs read like stories where

she narrates not only through her lyrics and intonation but also, on a

quieter yet just as affecting level, through the musical arsenal molding

each track.

Guitarist Steuart Smith, bassist Graham Maby, drummer Steve

Holley, keyboardist Rob Hyman and cellist Jane Scarpantoni keep Williams

moving on her musical beanstalk climb. Together, they set up tracks that

clearly showcase Williams' vocal prowess but remind listeners of the

musical muscle-flexing necessary for the success of an album so elegant in

its simplicity, no matter how many musicians are mentioned on the cover.

The Green World works springtime themes into most

tracks, tucking in hints of fall and winter at sleepier points. On "Calling

the Moon," Williams sings, "The moon wanted more of my night, I turned off

the engine and the headlights / the trees appeared as they'd never been

gone / I promised the fields I'd return from now on / And the moon kept on

rising," as she reflects on spontaneity and life's stresses. Though darker

than the majority of The Green World, "Calling The Moon" is a

poignant and soulful example of Williams' musical diversity - she can rock

out and meditate without skipping a beat.

One of the more overtly cheery moments on The Green

World is perhaps the most telling. On "Another Mystery," Williams

details her desire to thoroughly and actively explore life instead of being

observed and acted on by others. As she sings, "I don't want to be another

mystery / I could cut you off with a shoulder of stone / Smoke all night

and leave the party alone / Screw myself with an inscrutable pout / But I

just want you to come figure me out," it's clear she's got her priorities

straight. [RM]


Various Artists


Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture Bait


[Warner Bros.]

The soundtrack for Bait, the movie starring Jamie Foxx,

isn't being sold to conjure up memorable images from the movie as much as

it is meant to market up-and-coming artists from the r 'n' b/rap genre.

This is good because you won't get stuck with any painful instrumental bits

at the end of the CD that were whipped up just for a particular scene. It's

bad, though, because it's cheating - whoever made the soundtrack wasn't

struck with an epiphany of how well a song would fit a scene. They just

squeezed in some songs they liked.

The songs here do have some variety, even the r 'n' b, which a

sub-genre I normally hate because it often suffers from lack of diversity.

However, I liked "There's Nothing Better" by Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek

featuring Rell. It's upbeat, rhythmic r 'n' b, with a touch (and I do mean

just a touch) of funky soul. Mixed in is some rap, which I think takes away

from the song because it's not quite in synch with the bluesy background.

I prefer a track like "Took The Bait" by Scarface featuring

Dangerous - much more to my liking in terms of rap. Scarface and Dangerous

rap beautifully in synch with a strong orchestral background, mixed with a

deep, slow, rhythmic bass that produces an effect best described as strong

and smooth.

"Work" by The Roots with Alechia James was the track that

immediately logged in my memory bank. It starts off with strong hints of

classic blues and soul along the lines of Marvin Gaye and Al Green. While

this instrumental aspect eventually takes a back seat, it thankfully never

leaves us. James sounds like a cross between Lauren Hill and Billy Holiday.

Like in "There's Nothing Better," the accompanying rap is not quite in

synch with the music or the background chorus, but it's very

Fugees-sounding, which is a definite plus.

The rest of the tracks don't really need more specific

explainations because they just follow the typical

forcefully-spoken-sans-creativity rap and the

lovey-dovey-I-miss-you-let's-have-sex r 'n' b clichéd formulas. This may

appeal to some people, but not to me. Don't buy this soundtrack just for

its three songs. This is the 21st century - download them. [Rachael Klein]

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