Around the World in Six Albums

Consumers and proud of it: Numbers

Consumers and proud of it: Numbers

Voluptuous asceticism induces mania: Film at 11. The soundtrack: Pony Slaystation (Perlon), the new album from Pantytec, a.k.a. Cologne clickmeisters Zip and Sammy Dee. Cue lead track: "Micromission," which sets the tone in both title and sound--a funky glitchbeat overlaid with constantly mutating layers of thick pops and shivering, far-away vocals, like 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" undergoing a convulsion. Cut to the snaking crinkle-bass of "Elastobabe (Crackhouse Dub)," then to "Quattroporte," a riot of bouncing keyboards, lurching vinyl-rubs, snarling, static-ridden 303s, and out-of-nowhere shards of words--hold on, folks. We have just received an update: Ratings are soaring among stay-at-home ex-clubbers with good stereo systems. Headphone addicts to follow suit.

  • Boasting the best art direction in reissue label-land, London's Soul Jazz has made its reputation largely on skillful reggae compilations. In particular, the 100%-500% Dynamite! series artfully jumbles chronology and subgenres in order to point out the simpatico nature of four generations of Jamaican music. By contrast, the label's handling of vintage material from the pioneering Kingston label Studio One has been divvied up into stylistically similar volumes. On the new Studio One DJ's, party-sustaining flow is everything, with Dennis Alcapone's "Power Version" (which features the vocalist imitating a crow), and cuts by lesser-known jive talkers Jim Brown and Jah Scotchie keeping things moving. How to spot it among the others in the series: It's red.

  • Postpunk's not dead! But bad hipster bands are killing it! And San Francisco quartet Numbers isn't gonna take it anymore! Or something like that. On Numbers Life (Tigerbeat6), the band's short, sharp shocks are clichéd enough to be almost as funny as they were during postpunk's first moment. And that's before the first legible lyric comes on during the second song, "We Like Having These Things": "I am a consumer!" And I am chipper about it, too! Trash-can drums play herky-jerk funk patterns, guitars zig and zag, analog synths blurt and belch, and boys and girls excitedly yelp non sequiturs, making fun of themselves and/or their scene ("Too Cool to Say Hi"). Cute.

  • Remember that French-lesson interlude on De La Soul's first CD? Ever wondered what might happen if its central Berlitz learn-it-yourself sample rose three feet high and swallowed the whole album? Chances are it would sound like Ceci N'est Pas un Disque (Big Dada), the new album by Paris rappers TTC. Tido Berman, Teki Latex, and Cuizinier are less couch-potato lazy than aggressively insouciant (how French of them). And they ride a suitably Prince Paul-esque array of grooves from a variety of producers: Mr. Flash's start-stop funk on "Nonscience," DJ Vadim's cartoon oboes on "De Pauvres Riches." Translations are not included, but they're not totally necessary, either.

  • Augustus Pablo knew that gospel isn't just a word in Scripture. Having established himself as a dub kingpin with 1976's King Tubby's Meets Rockers Uptown, the spiritually minded Jamaican keyboardist and melodica pioneer followed the album up with something less wild and more peaceful. East of the River Nile, which the Shanachie label recently reissued in a special 25th-anniversary edition, is instrumental rather than dub, and the music is played instead of constantly messed with--though there's enough of the latter to keep you on your toes. An upbeat rocker like "Jah Light" can trance you out, and when the backing-vocal shoops enter "Unfinished Melody," the heavens open. The six bonus tracks keep them cracked.

  • On Roberto Juan Rodriguez's El Danzon de Moises (Tzadik), you can't tell where the Jewish son ends and the Cuban klezmer begins. As percussionist for Marc Ribot's Los Cubanos Postizos, Rodriguez knows all about musical cross-fertilization, and the session he leads here puts this knowledge to effective use. It's also an excuse to show off a killer band: the ribbon-like soprano sax of Peter Apfelbaum, the creaky sawing of violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Jane Scarpantoni, and the superdrumming of Susie Ibarra, who shares the spotlight on the exhilarating polyrhythmic climax, "Jerusalem Market." Best in show may be Twin Cities native pianist Craig Taborn, whose lithe touch grounds the album and who gets to pound away on his showpiece, "Comparsa en Altamar." Praise Yahweh and/or thank Santería!