Pop music: This Week's Album Releases

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CD Choice

MOJO RADIO LO'JO (NIGHT & DAY JNCD 013)

LIKE EVERY other aspect of our lives, the record racks are currently awash with World Cup cash-ins - not just the new national anthems, but also countless albums of football-related compilations claiming to celebrate the competition's internationality with a musical buffet ranging from the indecipherable to the unlistenable.

A more satisfying, authentically distilled representation of the event's multi-ethnicity can be better gleaned, however, from French band Lo'Jo's inspiring Mojo Radio, an eclectic blend of French, Arabic and North African musical flavours whose lyrical content ranges wider still, taking in Spanish, Hindi and even English idioms. Fronted by gruff rap/singer Denis Pean, with the Nid El Mourid sisters adding exquisite backing harmonies, Lo'Jo's sound leans heavily on violin and accordion - though both instruments are played imaginatively, in ways which broaden the stereotypical French styles. With strong rhythmic underpinning provided by exotic percussion like darabuka and balofon, there's a pan-global infectiousness that acknowledges no national boundaries, an attitude nowhere better expressed than on "Amadoue Morito", where Lo'Jo gracefully thread bass clarinet and saxophones over a bed of kora, sitar and tabla.

Usually, this kind of cultural cross-pollination takes place either in occasional studio meetings (mostly at Peter Gabriel's RealWorld) or at Megadog-style raves. But Mojo Radio exudes an ease and integrity born of togetherness: it's an organic thing, grown out of the band's 15-year history, rather than a musicological exercise. It's a brave work, with songs like "Rwandamnation" challenging their countrymen's more conservative attitudes. The title-trackitself offers an especially rousing expression of outsider unity - a battle-cry of the dispossessed more ringingly sincere even than a footballer's shampoo endorsement. If that's humanly possible.

SUNMACHINE DARIO G

(WARNER BROS. 3984-23378-2)

SUNMACHINE IS a perfect example of the way most people encounter "ethnic" music - as a series of flavourings added to dance music in an attempt to make the mundane seem more exotic. Techno trio Dario G try several styles here, including those trusty favourites, didgeridoo and bhangra, the latter largely through borrowed elements of Monsoon's 1982 hit "Ever So Lonely". It works well in some cases, though the current single "Carnaval De Paris", a catch-all exercise in pan-national eclecticism on a football- chant theme, fails dismally to rise above its naked opportunism, announced with a brazen flourish of accordion more patronisingly Gallic than anything on Lo'Jo's album.

Despite this - or because of it - Dario G's method pays enormous dividends. "Sun- chyme", the Robert Miles-style dancefloor groove, was a huge worldwide hit last year, and it doesn't take a genius to envisage "Sun-machine" itself following suit.

CONCERT CLASSICS KRAFTWERK

(RANCH LIFE CRANCH 4)

DATING FROM the 1974 tour undertaken in the wake of "Autobahn", this live album suggests why subsequent Kraftwerk product is so thin on the ground - having made their great stylistic breakthrough, there's little more to be done than shuffle their electronic tones around into new melodies. Concert Classics is a lovely album all the same, with "Kometenmelodie" and "Morganspaziergang" featuring a delicate glockenspiel tone largely absent from later works. Both also bear the traces of the group's earlier improvisational style, while the 20-minute centrepiece of "Autobahn" clearly holds the key to future developments. A quarter-decade on, it's not quite as perfect driving music as it once seemed compared with today's faster, more powerful techno models. But there's still a grace and charm about it that's been swept aside in the drive for dancefloor efficiency. We are the poorer for its disappearance, and for theirs.

OVERCOME BY HAPPINESS PERNICE BROTHERS

(RYKODISC RCD10447)

THOUGH HIS brother Bob does indeed help out on guitar and vocals, Overcome By Happiness is really more of a solo effort by Joe Pernice.

The mood here is too impressionistic for New Country, with strings and occasional horns tinting Pernice's melancholic songs in a manner reminiscent of REM's Automatic For The People. With Pernice's hoarse vocals blurring their edges, and winding, cyclical melodies, they're odd, tentative songs that seem to circle around subjects without really alighting on them for any length of time - a style which makes for a few surprises, as when "Chicken Wire" eventually turns out to be about a suicide. Sometimes, they seem to be less songs than mood moments, emotional snapshots of things too difficult or too abstract to easily put into words. Then again, what exactly ought one to expect of a song called "Wherein Obscurely"? An engagingly mysterious debut.

THE CURSE OF THE GOLDEN VAMPIRE ALEC EMPIRE & TECHNO ANIMAL (DIGITAL HARDCORE DHR CD14)

THE PROLIFIC hardcore techno auteur Alec Empire seems to have found his perfect collaborators in Techno Animal - the duo of Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick.

Both parties profit from the arrangement: Empire gets a more daring surface for his distorted, over-driven beats, and Techno Animal's noise- scapes acquire the blistering rhythm tracks that they so richly deserve.

Admittedly, parts of The Curse Of The Golden Vampire do sound like someone sweeping up after an explosion in a glass factory, but others, such as the opening track "Caucasian Deathmask", are exhilarating blocks of rhythm, noise and wailing free-form saxophone. The only vocals - by MC Bean on "Substance X" - are half-legible phrases trapped in the cogs of the trio's metal machine music. It's a fair bet you'll not hear another album like this in 1998 - though of course, that's no guarantee of satisfaction. You have been warned.

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