Faithless Reverence Cheeky CHEK CD500

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The Independent Culture
The crossover bug is clearly the way forward for house music if it is to escape the self-imposed dancefloor ghetto. This debut album by a quartet based around the tried and trusted production skills of Rollo and Sister Bliss (remixers of Simply Red, Pet Shop Boys, Roxy Music, M People and U2) follows a similar cross-pollination to Everything But The Girl's latest, throwing the net wider yet to include a singer-songwriter (Jamie Catto), a sly, worldly rapper (Maxi Jazz), a classically trained pianist/ violinist/ DJ (Sister Bliss), and a producer/ central organising intelligence (Rollo) who had the good taste to turn down remix commissions from both Jacko and Blur.

As their name suggests, they cleave to no specific style. The results are as wide-ranging as their origins, a striking blend of flavours that only occasionally clash uncomfortably. For the most part, it's a smoothly orchestrated, gently shifting series of musical tableaux like the single "Salva Mea", in which the introductory strings and cooings give way to a full-on symphonic techno section split by a languid rap. By turns serious and humorous - sometimes, as on the poppy reggae vibe of "Dirty Ol' Man", in the same song - the tracks deal with the full range of frustrations and elations of modern life, from secret love to sleeplessness, and from raunchy love to the relative unimportance of possessions. Already touted as one of the year's best, Reverence heralds another outfit who, like Moloko, find fresh directions for a rapidly aging "new" technology.

Ash 1977 Infectious INFECT40CD There are still, however, one or two tricks in the old technology, though judging by Ash's debut album, you'd have to have been in a coma for the past five years not to recognise the sleights of hand involved. 1977 takes its cue from that year, offering fast, new-wave rock bulging with spirit and power chords, as in "Lose Control", or slower grunge-pop with a slightly whimsical edge (if that's not a complete contradiction in terms), such as the Foo Fighters-esque "Girl From Mars".

Apart from the fast, fun paean to Jackie Chan, "Kung Fu", the latter stages teeter ever closer to the tiresome. Earlier tracks such as "Goldfinger" best portray the band's keen grasp on the conflicting weights of their style - it hangs suspended somewhere between wussy pop and hairy rock like the proverbial ton of feathers.

Puressence Puressence Island CID 8046 It's an oddly fertile time for British rock, with inspiration striking in the strangest places. For Manchester's Puressence, it involves the resurrection of the new-wave sound of early U2, Joy Division and Comsat Angels: dark, soul-searching lyrics harnessed to cavernous guitars, a sound crying out for a stadium to echo round.

This first album is a work of lowering shadows and vaulting ambition, a compelling portrait of contemporary confusion. Its grandiloquent, epic- rock architecture is inhabited by quite the most arresting, original voice I've heard in some time: James Mudriczki has a counter-tenor of unnatural power and distinction.

It's the contrast between the huge weight of the music and this unworldly, precious instrument that gives Puressence's songs their power. There's a great strength of character to the band, too: despite the typical indie traumas and near-suicidal insecurities of the earlier songs, they still come round, ultimately, to the only sensible option. "It's a crazy world, I know," sings Mudriczki in "Every House on Every Street", "but I'm sticking around". We're the richer for it.

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