ALBUMS / Skim-reading between the lines

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Amplified Heart

(Blanco Y Negro 4509-96482-2)

Everything But the Girl's latest album traces the subtle shifts of sentiment in a crumbling relationship, which may or may not be Ben and Tracey's own, who knows? Certainly, in 'Troubled Mind', Tracey sings of 'reading more into your words than you have put into them', which rather suggests another songwriter of intimate connection. Between them, they've constructed a song cycle which seems to run from initial disaffection, through break-up, to an eventual reconciliation of sorts in the last few tracks.

The album captures expertly the fragmentary, confusing nature of emotional ruction: doubt and uncertainty stalks these songs, with occasional flashes of remorse and recognition cutting to the quick of the matter - as when Ben Watt captures the emptiness of the lovelorn in 'Missing' by admitting, 'Can I confess I've been hanging round your old address?'

The settings for these troubled epistles draw on the classic British folk-rock talents of Dave Mattacks and Danny Thompson, with Richard Thompson guesting on one track and string arranger Harry Robinson doing what is claimed to be his first work in the field since the early Seventies. The result is a kind of jazz-lite folk-pop which seems designed to accessorise a thirtysomething lifestyle, smart and stylish without making too many demands on the attention.


Seize the Time

(Beggars Banquet NAT CD 33)

Fiercely polemical, the militant Anglo-Asian rap crew Fun Da Mental blend edgy techno rhythms with Asian percussive and melodic flavours and sampled soundbites of black-pride oratory from the likes of Louis Farrakhan, topping the lot with angry, articulate castigations of Western decay.

'Dog Tribe' opens the first of Seize the Time's two CDs with a gritty put-down of white-prole Fascism pitched straight at street-level. The second CD, widening the group's aim, uses a sample of Alan Clark's outrageous patrician disdain when questioned about supplying arms to Saddam Hussein as the perfect exemplar of the all-purpose British devil: this speaks clearly of the rationale underpinning the rumbling Islamic war-cries of 'President Propaganda' and 'Mera Mazab', and the anti- Christianity blast 'Dollars or Sense', which denounces the Bible as 'make believe stories / Where people like me don't seem to have glory'.

There's an unapologetically macho aggression to their raps, brought into sharp focus when Subi Shah's calm, capable 'Mother India' interrupts the barrage of testosterone-charged agit-pop. There's an assurance about her feminist anthem - which praises Palestinian freedom fighter / terrorist Leila Khaled alongside a host of more historical heroines - which channels the anger into a less aggressive, but no less determined, expression of pride.



(Planet Dog/Ultimate BARK CD 005)


Blade Runner

(eastwest 4509-96574-2)

There's a wiry elasticity to Eat Static's grooves on this, their second album - a space-hopper bounce which matches their (apparently sincere) ufologist beliefs as espoused in the sampled conspiracy theorists of 'Abnormal Interference'.

We've been here before several times, from Hawkwind to the Orb's 'Blue Room', but Eat Static seem more condensed in their approach, using a frisky hi-hat pattern to give an air of hot jazz to such tracks as 'Dzhopa Dream' and the title track, while bungee basslines ensure the beat strides along regardless. 'Panspermia', by contrast, is unapologetically spacey, with ghosts of sound spinning gravity-free in an abyss.

This is more in the vein of Vangelis's Blade Runner soundtrack, an early techno landmark much admired by remixers like Paul Oakenfold and the Orb's Alex Patterson: there's a looming autocratic power to Vangelis's 'Main Titles' that applies ambient principles more to skyscraper- canyons than the chasms of deep space, while the use of soundbites from the film anticipates another commonplace of the sampling era.

The 'End Titles' are couched in a pounding electro-pop surge reminiscent of Kraftwerk's 'Metropolis', but it's not all techno: there are echoes of Enya, Keith Jarrett and the Diva soundtrack elsewhere, while on 'Tales of the Future', Demis Roussos contributes a Rai-style vocal track. Reissued, with several unreleased tracks, this is Vangelis's most consistent album.