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Neil Halstead - Sleeping On Roads (4AD)

These days every soft-spoken folkster with a British accent, and even some without (Elliot Smith, for one), draws comparisons to Nick Drake. It's a goddamn crime. Really. For nearly a week I've been trying to get my head around Neil Halstead's debut solo album, Sleeping On Roads, but I keep coming around to the same conclusion: He sounds just like Nick Drake. It kills me to say it, just kills me, but it's true.

Framed by pneumatic string and horn arrangements, Halstead's wanderlust carries him through a landscape littered with old flames, fantasy vistas, and stormy memories that mark the miles. Like Drake, Halstead - Mojave 3's front man by day -- projects the fragile sensibility of a songwriter who spends much of his time alone, laboring over an acoustic in sparse, unlit rooms.

According to his bio, he wrote and recorded parts of this album while living in the studio for two months. His exile was not exactly self-imposed. He split with his girl and wound up heartbroken and homeless. At least something good came of it.

Point - Cornelius (Matador)

I must face facts.... I'm a snob when it comes to electronic music .When it comes to Rock and Pop, I have many fluffy vices like Madonna, Sade, and um...Hall and Oates. But when it comes to electronic music, I am just too demanding. Luomo is about the closest I come to fluff.

That said, I must admit I was surprised to like a couple of tracks of Point, the new record by Cornelius. Cornelius is a Japanese cut and paste artist who somehow won the critics over with his horrible Fantasma that was as spastic and overwrought as it was dull. Oddly, all one needs do to win good words from critics these days is to assemble a record (regardless of how awful it sounds) utlizing 5 million samples and influences. Cornelius and The Avalanches are prime examples of this.

Thankfully, on Point, Cornelius has matured somewhat as a musician and seems to be focusing more on melody than on creating complex collages. The result is syrupy, poppy, and less spastic, but frankly not very good. But at least it is a step in the right direction and seems more controlled than previous efforts. However, his beautiful cover of "Brazil" and the Stereolab-influenced track "Point of View Point" are simply lovely and nearly make the record worth owning.

Select Cuts From Blood & Fire Chapter 2 (Select Cuts)

Select Cuts I missed Chapter 1, but will definitely be picking it up after immersing myself in the funky and tripped-out dub to be found on Chapter 2. Select Cuts has put together a great compilation of reworkings of classic dub greats such as King Tubby, Lee Perry, and Scientist by younger dub and electronic bands and musicians.

Though the glitchy, minimal dub style coming out of Germany is largely ignored on Select Cuts, the record showcases a mixture of sounds influenced equally by drum and bass, hip hop, and techno. Remix artists include Leftfield, Dubphonic, Kid Loco, Jah Wobble, and most notably Apollo 440 on the endlessly funky remix of Yabby You. Fifteen consistently strong tracks in length, Select Cuts From Blood & Fire Chapter 2 is not to be missed.

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