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Nicolette: Let No One Live Rent Free in Your Head (Talkin' Loud, CD/tape). This has been reviewed incorrectly as Nicolette's debut album in numerous publications, so you can accrue extra credibility points simply by mentioning that her first LP was in 1992, well before she guested on Massive Attack's Protection, and that the country has only just caught up with her wide- ranging cutting-edge musical preferences. Setting out on the trail blazed by Tricky, Bjork, Goldie (with whom she shares a manager) and the aforementioned Massive Attack, Nicolette has produced a frighteningly futuristic record that club-phobes will buy as proof that there's more to their collection than Beatles copyists. What prevents the remote, alienated jungle terrain from seeming too hostile is the Nigerian-Scot's elfin warble, and questioning lyrics that ponder philosophy and politics with the attitude of the early Bob Dylan. Street credibility and songs you can quote. What more could you want? Nicholas Barber

Paul Bowles: An American in Paris (Koch Swann, CD). The expatriate Bowles is well-known as a writer (The Sheltering Sky, etc), as beat avatar, and as husband to novelist Jane Bowles. But his musical productions are difficult to get hold of, despite his role as composer of the incidental music for many of Tennessee Williams's plays. This wonderful album (to be followed by a companion volume later this month) represents fairly early work and was recorded live in Paris in 1994. Songs, piano preludes, and a concerto for two pianos, wind instruments and percussion, delineate the composer's precocious (he was a follower of Aaron Copland) and very melodic world - and the tenor Howard Haskin sings quite beautifully. Bowles's libretti are superb, and jazz and Latin influences colour the ensemble works to great effect. World music may well start here. Phil Johnson

Baby Fox: A Normal Family (Malawi, CD). Dubbed-up, trip-hoppy debut from a precocious north-London trio of samplers and singers whose version of the old Lee Perry/ Junior Byles cut "Curly Locks" is so good it defies belief, setting the original melody alongside an inspired steal from "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye". Spoken-word samples, beautiful vocals from Christine Ann Leach and a fascination with both Eastern cultures and Marc Bolan further enliven an entrancing album. PJ

The Roots of Rap: Classic Recordings from the 20s and 30s (Yazoo, CD). Visions of depression-era gangsta-rappers aren't really sustained by this entertaining collection of mainly talking blues from black bluesmen, hokum minstrels and white country po' boys but there are some great lyrics to savour all the same, including one-time Louisiana state governor Jimmie Davis's immortal line: "She's long, she's tall, she's a handsome queen, she's got ways like a mowing machine." PJ