Embrace the Chaos (Almo)
On its latest album, the Los Angeles group Ozomatli dip into their usual goody bag of funk, salsa, cumbia, hip-hop and jazz to pull out a groove-laden album that walks the line between Latin and rap, often losing its balance. The varied elements are good, and each track comes together solidly by itself, but the album as a whole just doesn't gel.
The CD begins with "P^ Lante," a horn-driven song with a traditional salsa feel. The shift between this sound and tracks like "1234" featuring De la Soul and "Embrace the Chaos" featuring Common is jarring to say the least. The styles fail to mesh the way they did on the group's self-titled 1998 album, making for an awkward vibe as horns and samples duke it out for aural attention. This could be due to the fact that Cut Chemist only lends his turntable talents to three tracks on Embrace the Chaos, compared to the more crucial role he played on their last release. Here, Ozomatli embrace perhaps a little too much chaos with their schizophrenic skills, making for a disjointed album with scattered moments of clarity.
--By Kelly McVicker
Zen (Red Ink)
DJ Krush is back behind the boards. After relying mainly on the production skills of others on his last outing, this trip-hop O.G. takes another swing at crafting the blunted head-nodders that characterize his sound. How does he fare? Let's just say it's swing and miss. Not to say that Zen is a total waste, but the boredom induced by sitting through many of the album's weaker tracks almost cancels out the funk others have to offer. The problem with this album, like many others from the Krush catalogue, is not that it goes in a bad direction--it just doesn't have enough juice to go anywhere at all. His minimalist brand of hip-hop instrumentalism has suffered from this problem before.
In what may be an attempt to add some depth to his beats, Krush employs the help of a collaborator on every cut. His best results come when he is paired with dope MCs like The Roots' Black Thought and Company Flow's EL-P. However, even the unquestionably tight flow of Japanese lyricist BOSS THE MC can't steer this album out of the spliff-induced haze in which it was recorded.
--By Chas Reynolds
Bay Leaf (Almo)
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Pearl Jam, one of the best bands of the 1990s, has produced one of the worst solo albums of today. Written and recorded by Stone Gossard, Bay Leaf captures the most irritating qualities of Pearl Jam's style. From the whiny guitar streams shouting for attention to the pretentious lyrics that scream "I won't grow up!" Bay Leaf is a far cry from Pearl Jam's rollicking chords, peering lyrics and explosive sound. In fact, the album is more like a firecracker that doesn't explode correctly. The first song, "Unhand Me," has an exciting opening but spills into nothing but noise. The second song, "Fend it Off," is loud and dissonant but doesn't go anywhere. If it weren't for the oddly inspired "Cadillac" and "Fits," with the beat of the Beach Boys and the feel of indy rock, this album would be almost unbearable. As is, it's a dark patch of music, with glimmers of promise from the Pearl Jam guitarist striking out on his own.
--By Faran Krentcil
A Funk Odyssey (Sony)
In its past four albums, Jamiroquai has carved a unique musical niche, fusing funky bass lines and flowing melodies with a world music flair--think didgeridoo meets disco. The band's latest venture, A Funk Odyssey, trades in the tribal jazz vibe for an intergalatic jam, heavily influenced by Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. The galaxy quest shines when Jamiroquai allows itself to GROOVE--"Feels So Good," "Little L" and "Love Foolosophy" possess undeniable dance floor potential. However, despite their charms, Odyssey's more subdued cuts--the whimsical "Corner of the Earth" and "Black Crow"--completely break the continuity of the album.
--By Beth Iams