POP MUSIC / Albums: Another rock'n'roll swindle

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Malcolm McLaren - Paris (Disques Vogue NOCD 100)

HAVING treated Puccini, square-dancing, Oxford Street and the waltz to his dubious post-modern mincemeat strategy, Malcolm McLaren now crams an entire city into his blender. McLaren's Paris, though, is constructed from a far safer, style-based series of French cultural cliches than those sought out by Tony Hancock in that masterpiece of art-critical theory, The Rebel.

Fanning the Gauloise fumes heavily across the proceedings, McLaren has his studio helpers confect his youthful memories of the Quartier Latin - snatches of jazz, Satie and Francoise Hardy, mainly - as he busks reminiscences of Gallic touchstones.

What this means is we get familiar Satiean themes played on trumpet, or sung by African choir, or just wafting delicately along on feathery cool-jazz arrangements while Malcolm prattles on in a world of his own - not to mention a key of his own - about Juliette Greco's affair with Miles Davis, or grabbing a cute girl's behind on the Rue Pigalle, or 'the Velvet Underground meeting the velvet gentleman, running down the Boulevard St Germain' to meet Serge Gainsbourg - who, he assures us, had a photograph of Sid Vicious on his piano.

Bad enough, you might think, but it would have been difficult for McLaren to have rendered his vocals any more laughably, flouncing through what is effectively just high-quality muzak like a theatrical tour guide. It's as if, part way through the recording, he realised the sheer impertinence of his project, and decided to distance himself by taking the mickey out of it. Too late. What's the French for 'fatwa'?

Jimi Hendrix - Woodstock (Polydor 523 384-2)

BY THE time Hendrix closed the Woodstock Festival, at breakfast-time on the Monday morning, the bulk of the crowd had been defeated by the weather and exhaustion: only 60,000 of the half million witnessed the set first-hand, and the few fragments subsequently released have merely teased with their enigmatic genius. Indeed, the movie's focus on the breathtaking 'Star-Spangled Banner' and the moody, morning-after instrumental 'Villanova Junction' have left us with a strangely downbeat impression of Hendrix's contribution; but as his amiable patter here shows, he was in more light-hearted mood, buoyed by the dawn into renaming his band 'Gypsy Sun and Rainbows'. You couldn't tell, listening to this, that shortly before he had been in such bad shape that, around midnight, he had turned up in the festival's medical tent for unspecified treatment.

This first release of the entire show - or as much of it as survived the less-than-ideal recording conditions - rearranges the set to start with 'Fire' before unveiling the first of Hendrix's new material, 'Izabella', a rather clumsy indicator of the funk-rock direction in which he was headed. The new band featured here retains Mitch Mitchell on drums, augmented by percussionists Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez, Jimi's old army pal Billy Cox on bass, and another army pal, Larry Lee - just back from Vietnam - on second guitar. At times leaden, the rhythm section isn't exactly helped by the overcrowding, but Jimi is on fire for most of the set.

The lesser-known material ranges from the stupendous to the stodgy (he's done 'Hear My Train a-Comin' ' far better elsewhere), though it's never less than interesting. 'Jam Back at the House (Beginnings)' is a fast boogie instrumental which climaxes with Hendrix hammering the riff over and over, aiming for that mesmeric repetition which he realised, long before the advent of the sequencer, altered the perception of the music. 'Most of the people will fall off by about a minute of repeating,' he acknowledges in the CD booklet. 'You do that, say, for three or four or even five minutes, if you can stand it, and then it releases a certain thing inside a person's head.'

Orbital - Snivilisation (Internal TRUCD 5)

WHAT Hendrix realised all those years ago has since become the dominant musical lingua franca of the age, with repetition taken to extremes even he could not foresee. Rare indeed is the techno track that lasts merely three or four or five minutes, though in most cases a strange inverse rule applies, there appearing to be less and less going on the longer the track is.

Orbital's Snivilisation is a relatively compact and varied item by ambient / techno standards, its 10 tracks containing clear and distinct styles and themes, from the jazzy, syncopated opener 'Forever' to the punky techno-thrash of 'Quality Seconds' and the concluding space-scape synth-tones of 'Attached'. Along the way the Hartnoll brothers skilfully weave in reminders of related systems music: 'Kein Trink Wasser' is a pure minimalist exercise in the vein of John Adams or Philip Glass. The closest the album comes to hardcore techno stomping is on 'Crash and Carry', but even so there's a deftness to it, a little hint of swing tugging at the monomaniacal beat, which separates Orbital from the routine.