Hieroglyphics, Xiu Xiu, Pelt Part Wild Gate 

Sound Advice

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The Kitchen

Hieroglyphics Imperium Records

File next to: Del the Funky Homosapien, De La Soul

Creative, eclectic and fearless, the third LP from Oakland's Hieroglyphics is a loose, fun collaboration of uniquely talented performers and producers. The title makes sense in the everything-and-the-sink approach, but The Kitchen as a whole is sufficiently laid-back and strong that it doesn't seem unfocused. The turntable work is impressive, as is the smooth emcee delivery, comparable to A Tribe Called Quest's interplay. But what really makes The Kitchen a treat is the work of the multiple producers. Del the Funky Homosapien favors sunny, soulful, left-of-center beats on the party anthem "Livin' It Up" and the lopsided, funky "Golden," while Gully Duckets favors more cinematic and mysterious arrangements on "The Mayor" and "Gun Fever." Even more exciting are Opio's spacey, skittering treatments, fusing krautrock, jazz and funk. — Collin Estes

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Xiu Xiu


Graveface Records

File next to: Tim Berne's Bloodcount, Former Ghosts, Parenthetical Girls

Some folks shuddered when they heard that Jamie Stewart, founder of experimental rock band Xiu Xiu, planned an album of Nina Simone covers. Stewart's intense, hissing tenor resembles early Bryan Ferry, and is often used in song suites that suggest a male Diamanda Galas. But here, Stewart recruits jazz stalwarts Ches Smith and Tim Berne, who've not only crafted tight arrangements for the Simone numbers, but also agreed to stick with Xiu Xiu for an album of originals due next month. Berne makes tracks like "You'd Be So Nice" and "Wild Is the Wind" sizzle with near-melody, but be warned: When Jamie opens the album a capella with "Don't Smoke in Bed," it's enough to drive most pets (and people) from the room. Nina may polarize music lovers, but will not be forgotten. — Loring Wirbel

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Pelt Part Wild Gate

Hung On Sunday

MIE Recordings

File next to: Black Twig Pickers, Sun City Girls, Vibracathedral Orchestra

The improvisational bluegrass band Pelt is famous for spawning musicians who find fame in solo careers, most notably the late guitarist Jack Rose. Few casual fans realize that Pelt also loves to form genre-spanning instrumental supergroups, including United Supreme Council and Keyhole. This time around, members of Pelt, Gate, Dead C, and Part Wild Horses have united to create what they call "gamelan music," but with as much raga and hillbilly influence as Indonesian. Occasionally the mix of instruments yields a drone akin to Vibracathedral Orchestra; at other times the chorale of singing bowls gives the album the feel of a religious service. Too bad this is a one-off jam session, as Pelt once again has redefined "world music" far beyond where a label like Putumayo would be likely to go. — Loring Wirbel


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