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VAR­I­OUS ARTISTS Ec­cen­tric Breaks and Beats (Nu­mero Group)

Aside from Dylan’s The Base­ment Tapes and Prince’s Black Al­bum, it’s pretty rare that leaked al­bums end up as of­fi­cial re­leases. Yet that’s the story with Ec­cen­tric Breaks and Beats. Nu­mero Group, a Chicago la­bel that res­ur­rects ob­scure al­bums of the past few decades, got wind of a vinyl boot­leg of out­takes from its Ec­cen­tric Soul se­ries. The al­bum, how­ever, was far more than a pi­rated copy; it was a remix of hun­dreds of sam­ples into a galac­tic hip-hop mix of horn-heavy ’70s soul. Nu­mero Group even­tu­ally found out that the mix was the work of Shoes, a shad­owy DJ out­fit that puts out un­der­ground remixes of clas­sic R&B and Detroit techno. So in­stead of is­su­ing a cease-and-de­sist let­ter to the record com­pany, Nu­mero moved to put out the boot­leg as its record — which in a way, it is. The re­sult is a mix­tape al­bum that re­calls the as­tral soul of DJ Shadow and Mas­sive At­tack. While it’s full of abra­sive, stagfla­tion-era funk, the record scram­bles and stretches its source ma­te­rial to the ex­tent that it can be hard to iden­tify the orig­i­nal songs. Per­fect for sum­mer cruis­ing, the CD is es­sen­tially two 22-minute tracks (sides A&B) com­posed of hot gui­tar licks, deliri­ous hooks, and rhythm sec­tions as tight and fluid as any­thing Stax or Mo­town put out in their hey­day. — Casey Sanchez TOKYO PO­LICE CLUB Champ (Mom + Pop Mu­sic) Youth­ful, nerdy Cana­dian in­die-rock col­lec­tive Tokyo Po­lice Club fol­lows up its 2008 de­but, Ele­phant Shell, with a tamer slab of down tempo songs that finds lead singer-bassist Dave Monks get­ting nau­se­at­ingly nostal­gic while stretch­ing his nasal-y rock pipes to new heights of “wicked awe­some, ehh.” When he sings on the open­ing track, “Favourite Food,” “With a heart at­tack on a plate, you were look­ing back on your days, how you spent them all in a blur, when they asked if you were for sure,” you know you’re in for plenty more eye-roll-wor­thy rem­i­nis­cence. With few ex­cep­tions, Monks should have looked back to the in­fec­tious quick-and-dirty pace of his band’s first full-length al­bum and saved these songs for his in­evitable ag­ing-hip­ster solo ca­reer. The Strokes-in­flu­enced poppy/squealy gui­tar hooks, sub­tle key­board melodies, high-oc­tave cheek-a-chunk rhythm gui­tars, and driv­ing per­cus­sion are still in­tact, but they lose their umph in songs stretched to the three-minute mark and be­yond. (That would be most of the tracks.) The air of chaos and im­me­di­acy on Ele­phant Shell is traded for some­thing more mu­si­cally ma­ture and the­mat­i­cally self-in­dul­gent here, which may be the re­sult of em­ploy­ing for­mer Beck/El­liot Smith pro­ducer Rob Sch­napf. There are a few throw­backs to more care­free TCP days, like “Wait Up (Boots of Dan­ger)” and “Big Dif­fer­ence,” but out of 11 tracks, less than half feel like a gen­uine ef­fort.

— Rob DeWalt


Cham­ber Mu­sic (Naxos) The name will ring a bell for mu­sic-lovers, but who among us re­ally knows much about Len­nox Berkeley (1903-1989)? Though he was over­shad­owed by his English con­tem­po­raries Wal­ton, Tip­pett, and Brit­ten, Berkeley was no slouch. The most no­table Bri­tish pupil of the re­doubtable Na­dia Boulanger (to whom he was re­ferred by Ravel), he served for more than two decades as pro­fes­sor of com­po­si­tion at the Royal Academy of Mu­sic in London. He com­posed in many gen­res, but his sen­si­tiv­ity to in­stru­men­tal tex­ture found an es­pe­cially com­fort­able home in cham­ber mu­sic. The four lit­tle-known works el­e­gantly per­formed on this CD by the New London Cham­ber En­sem­ble (plus col­leagues) re­veal con­sid­er­able stylis­tic breadth. Touches of Hin­demith en­liven his ebul­lient Horn Trio, and his Vi­ola Sonata, writ­ten at the end of World War II, is somber and moody. His Sonatina for Flute and Pi­ano was orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned for recorder and harp­si­chord, but it has al­ways seemed awk­wardly con­strained in that neo-Baroque set­ting. Played on flute and pi­ano, it frol­ics like a lark. If the Flute Sonatina seems a cousin to the mu­sic of Poulenc, Berkeley’s Quin­tet for Pi­ano and Winds is im­bued with a sense of mys­tery and har­monic ad­ven­ture we may as­so­ci­ate more with Mil­haud. This well-bal­anced pro­gram is not pon­der­ously deep, but it charms: just the thing to lis­ten to on a sum­mer evening while sip­ping a glass of rosé. — James M. Keller

With few ex­cep­tions, Dave Monks should have saved the songs on ‘Champ’ for his in­evitable ag­ing-hip­ster solo ca­reer.

FOL ChEN Part II: The New De­cem­ber (Asth­matic Kitty)

Bands with both male and fe­male vo­cal­ists have an ad­van­tage over their uni­sex­ual coun­ter­parts in that they can di­rectly con­vey har­mony or dis­cord sim­ply by choos­ing who steps up to the mi­cro­phone at any given time. Un­sur­pris­ingly, com­mu­ni­ca­tion (and lack thereof) is of­ten a ma­jor theme of their work, from Fleet­wood Mac up through The XX. Los An­ge­les sex­tet Fol Chen in­cor­po­rates that dy­namic into its on­go­ing nar­ra­tive wher­ever pos­si­ble, de­tail­ing dis­con­nect in lines like, “I’m so sorry / I’ve for­got­ten your name/I for­got my own” on “The Holo­grams” and on “C/U,” “All the notes you wrote me, they’re fall­ing apart/I try to read them but the phrases stop and start.” The band un­der­scores these lyrics with a sonic pal­ette that is di­verse but never dense, march­ing in the same min­i­mal­ist funk as Prince & the Revo­lu­tion’s Pa­rade. This holds true whether Fol Chen en­gages in an airy waltz on the ti­tle track or an East­ern-in­flu­enced, Tim­ba­land-like jam on “In Ru­ins.” Un­for­tu­nately, the hooks that the band hangs its ex­pres­sive lyrics and eclec­tic in­stru­men­ta­tion on aren’t ter­ri­bly sticky; the record is a slip­pery af­fair that doesn’t stay in your head long af­ter lis­ten­ing. That’s a draw­back, for sure, but the sil­ver lin­ing is that ev­ery time you lis­ten to The New De­cem­ber, you make col­or­ful new con­nec­tions that you’d pre­vi­ously over­looked or for­got­ten about. — Robert B. Ker

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