St. Germain – Tourist

Tourist CD cover

In today’s fast-paced, money-driven music industry, full of rock-stars, pop-stars and porn-stars, it seems unlikely that the great jazz and blues label Blue Note would release a down-tempo jazz album. However, this isn’t just any jazz album. St. Germain is not your usual jazz group, using the sound of today’s electronica, while still following the conventions set forth by the jazz greats of yester year.

Ludovik Navarre is the man behind St. Germain, handling the writing, producing, and mixing for the album, not to mention conducting the band as well. Tourist is the acts late 2000 release. For the album, St. Germain mixes the spiraling improvisation of jazz with the beat-driven syncopation of modern day techno and house music. The result is a funky trip through fusion jazz, funky lounge music, and innovative French house, all with a vibe that makes you want to groove on the dance floor.

More than just a band that performs with a DJ spinning records in the background, St. Germain has a well-produced and intelligent sound that showcases Navarre’s talent as well as creating a viable new genre of jazz. The disc is full of bright tones and vibrant melodies offset by rhythmic, sometimes tribal, beats. Deep bass lines and satiny smooth keys punctuate many of the tracks.

A perfect example of their style is “Sure Thing,” which contains elements of Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker’s collaboration, “Harry’s Philosophy.” “La Goutte D’or” has a hip-hop flavor to it, full of bouncing beats and urban rhythms. The funky flute and syncopated beat of “So Flute” gives off the feel of an Andes Mountain influenced tribal house track.

Regardless of how they might be labeled by the music industry or received by the listening public, St. Germain has created an intriguing blend of styles and genres. Whether it’s the spiraling jazz tracks or the thumping loungy house tracks, the group lays down something for everyone. Ludovik Navarre and the rest of St. Germain are pushing the genre of jazz into the 21st century.


Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 4.5 stars

Thievery Corporation – The Mirror Conspiracy

The Mirror Conspiracy CD cover

Somewhere between drum and bass, ambient, and trip-hop lie Washington DC’s Thievery Corporation. Their eclectic release, The Mirror Conspiracy, is not your average electronica CD. Full of smooth grooves, down-tempo beats, deep bass and wistful vocals, they perform lounge music for the electronic generation. It is as much an experiment as it is a celebration of music.

The Thievery Corporation’s unique sound is comprised of a wide variety of musical styles that have been fused with down-tempo drum and bass. Smooth jazz, soulful horns, and deep bass lines permeate nearly every track on this album. Most intriguing is the influence of techno-blues, a little known genre defined by composer Richard Hartley, which creeps into several of the disc’s funkier cuts.

The highlight of The Mirror Conspiracy is easily “Focus on Sight,” a silky piece that is pure techno-blues. Punctuated by syncopated drums, deep, muted bass lines and funky horns, it is almost impossible not to move in rhythm with this expertly crafted work. Much like the entire album, this track was built for smoke filled, dimly lit lounges where people of all backgrounds groove to soulful, loungy house.

Whether it’s the smooth bass and sitar riffs of “Lebanese Blonde” or the sultry French lyrics of “Le Monde,” each and every track will wrap you in a warm blanket of ambient soul. Latin Samba beats, smooth jazz, spacey melodies and grooving down-tempo make The Mirror Conspiracy a necessity for any fan of loungy house. For the rest of you, don’t fear the unknown; the pulsating rhythms of The Thievery Corporation will overtake you.

The Mirror Conspiracy

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 4.5 stars

Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza – We Kill Children

Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza - We Kill Children CD cover

Okay, so maybe sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. This album is exactly what you’d probably expect from We Kill Children with track titles like “The Columbine High Alma Mater” and “Slit My Wrists”.

The onslaught begins with a heavy Mentors-vibe in “Stabbin’ You Up”. That same feel returns throughout the disc, particularly on tracks like the title track (complete with some disturbing samples).

With “Shallow Grave”, things take on a more hardcore twist and it is here that they truly come into their own. The rapidfire beats in “The Columbine High Alma Mater” and “Calling You Out” beat the listener to a slow, bloody death and help to develop the group’s no holds barred sound.

They show an impressive ability to mix up their sound a bit, with the thrashy beats of “Thirteen” and “Looking out my Window”, as well as the death influences of “Rape” showing a depth often lacking on the hardcore scene.

The Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza is the most dangerous show on Earth. If you doubt that, they give you some insight into just what they mean at the end of the disc. Sure, any band can give you a bonus live track on their CD, but with this disc you get a bonus live set spanning over 20 minutes.

Definitely worth picking up or, even better, checking out live. Just make sure to keep them away from the little ones.

John Mayer – Inside Wants Out

Inside Wants Out CD cover

Before the hype, John Mayer’s inside wanted out. And with eight song independent release, his stardom makes perfect sense. With Inside Wants Out, Mayer has created a soulful, unique sound.

Despite the fact that it’s almost over as soon as it starts, few thirty-plus minute albums strike the heart like this one. His striped down, shoestring budget recordings serve to produce an emotionally charged power album. You can hear desire in his voice and fingers. These minimalistic and predominantly acoustic tracks showcase Mayer’s talent.

The most influential and emotional track, by far, is “Victoria.” It is the embodiment of teenage angst and the need to spread your wings. And all of this is produced with only a guitar, bass and Mayer’s smooth vocals.

Inside Wants Out

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 4.5 stars

Sneaker Pimps – Becoming X

Becoming X CD cover

The Sneaker Pimps’ sound is neither original nor unique, but their design and structure set them apart from the majority of Trip Hop artists. Their mild mannered style let them slide past their competition and into the annals of underground super stardom.

These pimps of sound have created one of the best debut works of all time. Becoming X is comprised of low-end bass, snappy, off-pattern drums and thumping rhythms. The secret to their compositions is minimalistic layering, using only the bare essentials to produce an emotionally full package.

Every track maintains their stylistic integrity without becoming repetitive or boring. Switching from highly synthetic to earthy and acoustic, they provide enough variety to attract the widest audience possible. Let your senses run free and experience the inspiration of Becoming X.

Becoming X

Rating by Jeffrey Rooks: 5.0 stars

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