New Skin
(Film Guerrero)


Led by in-demand Seattle producer/multi-instrumentalist Tucker Martine, Mount Analog is one of those super-session projects helmed by a seasoned studio rat that studiously explore the players' myriad of obsessions. These musicians--including A-list experimenters Eyvind Kang, Bill Frisell, Tim Young, and Bruce Wirth--softly and stealthily evoke poignant zones of dream consciousness. There's much haunting, spacious ambience--like Brian Eno's On Land transposed to the gloomy Pacific Northwest--seeping into these 11 tracks. But Mount Analog also pens heart-melting songs that could cue climaxes of romantic dramas: Check the tenderly beautiful "Bell & Howell" and "Gospel Melodica," which swells to a Spiritualized-meets-Jimmy Webb splendor, and cry yourself silly. DAVE SEGAL

(Minty Fresh/Universal)

If you doubt that the language of rock is inherently Anglo, try listening to some European bands. Though the EU is littered with familiar-sounding rock flavors, the most interesting characteristic--and biggest flaw--of most of the artists in question is that they tend to sing in English, rather than their native French, German, Flemish, or whatever. Though they may speak it fluently, and the music may sound proper, they rarely have sufficient mastery of English to speak the pop dialect. Hence, the records sound weirdly crippled. That's what I thought of Komeda when they first came around in the mid-'90s, from Sweden. They certainly looked and sounded the part of art pop, but they just didn't seem to have the language. Fortunately, Kokomemedada transcends the verbal issue completely, because it is great pop. High-energy, synth-based workouts won't have you sweating the (still mildly clunky) vocab, because you'll be too busy shaking your head at how much ass is being kicked. SEAN NELSON

Soul Survivor II
(Rapster/Studio K7)

Pete Rock's commercial peak can be easily recognized (it occurred in the early '90s); his artistic peak, on the other hand, is not so discernible because he has never had a low in that regard. In the big country of hiphop, Pete Rock is a volcano that constantly spews out rich, thick material. In 1992, he and C. L. Smooth released a huge hit called Mecca & The Soul Brother (1992). Rock's first solo record, Soul Survivor, is a hiphop ark for the year 1998 (every rapper who was important at that time is on that CD). His latest, Soul Survivor II, isn't built like an ark but like a numinous garden. The rappers on this CD (Slum Village, Dead Prez, C. L. Smooth, Talib Kweli, to name a few) are in a wonderland of beats. The tracks are grounded by heavy, walking bass lines and ornamented by floating, spectacular effects. Pete Rock is not soul survivor as much as he is a soul sorcerer. CHARLES MUDEDE

**** Red Skelton
*** Pink Floyd
** Old Yeller
* Blackie Lawless