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The Independent Culture

State of the Art

China WOLCD 1075

With the possible exception of Public Enemy production team The Bomb Squad, The Art of Noise arguably did more than anyone to popularise the notion of sampling, through 1980s hits such as "Beat Box", "Close (to the Edit)" and "Moments in Love". Hence the presence, on this budget-priced triple-CD remix collection, of such luminaries as The Prodigy, LFO, 808 State, Youth, The Orb and Doc Scott, dropping homage on AON tracks.

State of the Art offers a kind of time-lapse overview of British rave culture, the three CDs having been recorded at different stages of dance- music development. It is not a completely positive process. Quite the contrary; the first CD, subtitled The Ambient Collection, features 13 tracks remixed in 1990 by Youth with The Orb's Alex Paterson, and is easily the most satisfying and coherent of the discs, Youth sustaining a lightness of mood while segueing tracks into one long flow.

Elsewhere, the number of cooks tends to spoil the broth. The FON Mixes CD, first compiled in 1991, features several varieties of techno makeover, ranging from Liam Howlett's suitably prodigious mix of "Instruments Of Darkness" to the sparer sensibility of Sweet Exorcist's take on "I of the Needle". It's a fair old jumble of styles, with no particular unifying mood. For many of the mixes, it's mostly a case of grafting on different drum tracks or generating new percussion accents, a process which reaches absurd proportions on the final Drum & Bass Collection CD, recorded last year. Here, the AON input has been effectively strung like trinkets along a charm-bracelet of hyperactive new beats. While some remixers - Doc Scott on "Something Always Happens", PFM on "Opus 4" - manage to conjure something sleek, most simply serve to demonstrate just how inappropriate most of AON's original keyboard parts are for drum'n'bass, which demands a lightness of touch. It's like trying to dance in deep-sea divers' boots.


This Fire

Warner Bros 9362-46424-2

Paula Cole's 1996 debut Harbinger suggested a promising young talent of surprising maturity and idiosyncratic musical vision. It didn't do too well. On this follow-up, some of her more individual corners have been rubbed off, exposing much the same emotional wounds (and musical treatments) as Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. It has sold the best part of a million already, of course.

This Fire is an effusive bout of soul-searching which reaches a kind of existential breakthrough in a testing vocal style that comes perilously close to caterwauling on occasion. Ultimately, for all the musical style on display - besides piano, Cole plays xylophone, didgeridoo, clarinet and harmonium - the songs turn out to contain a fairly generic set of reminiscence and recrimination.

Womad Festival preview

Since inception in 1982, the World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival has become the principal showcase for world musical talent. This year's festival features headlining performances from Benin afro-funk priestess Angelique Kidjo (Sunday), British multi-cultural hip-hoppers Faithless (tomorrow), roots reggae artist Burning Spear (tonight) and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar.

Womad has realised that the dance fraternity has been increasingly tuning into the world music grooves it has been pioneering, so this year's festival includes nightly heads-down, no-nonsense dance work-outs with Megadog's World of Beats. Today's dance tent sessions include turns from the long- standing British dub master and Massive Attack remixer Mad Professor, with Eat Static, Spooky and Spring Hill Jack tomorrow and Hallucinogen and Headrillaz on Sunday. There are workshops, nightly performances by Circus Ethiopia and food from across the globe. If you're sick of festivals that feel like away-day trips with the regulars of the Dadrock Arms, get yourself to Womad.

Womad is at Rivermead Leisure Complex, Reading from today until Sunday. Weekend tickets are pounds 53. Daily tickets: Friday pounds 15, Saturday pounds 23, Sunday pounds 23. Concessions available.