Hi-Tech Hendrix Hip Hop

Little Axe "Slow Fuse" (Wired)


Little Axe's previous album was perhaps the first truly innovative blues record since the days of Jimi Hendrix. The new one continues the same successful concept: putting the traditional blues guitar within the ultra-modern aural context, i.e. hip hop, dub, ambient, trip-hop and other hi-tech atmospherics. The idea is quite obvious, but what makes Skip McDonald's (Little Axe's author-guitarist) work so valuable is how tasteful and organic the fusion is. Should fully please both blues purists and acid jazz kids.





Flesh Quartet "Fire Fire" (MVG)


This Stockholm band can boast a lot of things: They have a unique sound and line-up -- an electrified string quartet plus rhythm section, great writing abilities that go beyond rock and blues into the areas of ethnic and classical music, and finally, a remarkable soulful vocalist Freddie Wadling, often compared to the likes of Joe Cocker and Tom Waits. The only thing that's tragically lacking is the worldwide recognition they have long deserved. The new album, though, may keep them at bay for even longer, as this is their least trendy and danceable release so far. In fact, "Fire Fire" is a masterpiece of melancholy, a perfect audio companion to long winter nights beside the fireplace. We Russians, sharing the Nordic "Vodka Belt" with the Swedes, must love it -- but still very few can enjoy fireplaces, I'm afraid, and for narrow kitchens this music's too grand.





Rebecca Moore "Admiral Charcoal's Songs" (Knitting Factory)


Perhaps a hard-to-find disc, but worth searching for. Moore is an American singer-songwriter with an avant-garde background, and this album is a little like, say, Suzanne Vega being put in a much more adventurous musical context. It's beautiful, passionate, difficult and very interesting to listen to because unexpected little things keep happening throughout the record. Jeff Buckley plays acoustic guitar on several songs. Disturbance guaranteed.





Maanam "Lozko" (Pomaton/EMI)


Sadly enough, we in Russia now know much more about the pop scene in, say, Australia, than neighboring Poland. Luckily for me, I have friends there who supply me with new music from Warsaw -- and, mind you, it's not bad at all. Maanam is the oldest Polish ex-"new wave" band featuring superstar lady singer Kora. The music is well-crafted melodic pop/rock, very much like Russia's "quality" pop stars Aliona Sviridova or Angelica Varum. So, no matter who joins NATO and who doesn't -- the slavic similarities are here to stay.





Many of the records reviewed can be heard on A.K. Troitsky's weekly radio show "FM Dostoevsky" on Europa Plus, Sundays at midnight.








Kirpichi "Kirpichi Tyarhely" (Music Shock)


Ulitsy "Armianskaya Kislota" (Kurizza)


A couple of brand new releases from small St. Pete labels once again demonstrate how different their rock scene is from Moscow's. First, both bands are very young: Kirpichi are actually teenagers -- whereas in Moscow the rock crowd is pretty much a "thirty-something" (or more) thing. Second, they perform uncompromising stuff, showing very little -- if any -- awareness of market realities. Kirpichi, or The Bricks, play straightforward blue-eyed rap with a positive message -- against gangsters, the new rich, etc.; they're even against drugs, but in a peculiar way -- by holding alcohol as the alternative. Ulitsy, or The Streets, are a rock/rap crossover with a slightly psychedelic element; not as righteous as the holy Bricks, they share the same level of streetwise energy. Needless to say, neither of the bands is shown on TV, nor do they play in the capital's night clubs. It's a pity.