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The Independent Culture


(Cooltempo CTCD 44)

The latest instalment of the Bristol trip-hop sound, this time by way of beautiful downtown Ilford, 's debut album captures perfectly the eternal struggle for identity in a world already overloaded with information, where being info-freako has become a curse. The single "1st Transmission" is typical: a low mystery groove in the Portishead vein, it features rapper Mau enumerating a litany of formative moments in which Shostakovitch, Iceberg Slim, Leonard Cohen, Harvey Keitel and The Dice Man carry equal weight.

"Ananda's Theme" and "Nefisa" continue the process, Mau casting himself as the Radar of the album title, "a plastic thief with no belief in what I steal... I want it, and I want more". Free-associating to ward off the constant cultural bombardment, he comes across like an Open University version of Tricky, one who recognises the links between Franz Fanon and the emergence of prostitutes down Ilford Lane. There's none of the reproachful hectoring of American agit-rap, nor does Mau glamorise violence, gangsta- fashion; instead, he lets his all-channels-open approach lead him down less predictable avenues - as when, in "Planet of the Apes", he uses the movie as a tangential way into a dark tale of child abuse leading inexorably to further sexual dysfunction.

Tim Saul's sample-collages, meanwhile, are masterpieces of spooky understatement which give Mau's words their appropriate shelter: the combination of a quiet kora figure with a haunting string sample from Curtis Mayfield's "Right On for the Darkness" lends "Soup or No Soup" the most sadly sinister of aspects. Through it all, the rapper strains to find himself reflected in his input, perhaps the last and loneliest battle of the civilised world.