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The Funky Precedent Volume 2
Various Artists
No Mayo/Matador

The Funky Precedent Volume 2 spotlights indie hip-hop from the San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. area. Featuring more than 50 MCs, DJs and producers, and over 15 tracks, the mix is admirably inclusive; it has it all.

Lyricism. Foreign Legion lip first-rate narrative on "Bike Thief": "Sneak into summer-school/ A shopping spree at the bike rack/ Sockets in your pockets/ tools inside your socks/ freon in the canister/ for kryptonite locks."

Turntable-ism. DJ Vinroc spins Afro-futurism like dinner music fit for Kool Keith's dining room, and Planet Asia deejays chaos so nuanced and catchy that the MC (Rasco) only gets in the way.

Instrumentals. The trio Live Human (bass, drums and DJ) updates the scratch-fusion sound of DJ Logic and Medeski, Martin & Wood, and, in the process, makes acid jazz sound improbably new.

Of course, every class has its uglies. The Pimp Jones Love Orchestra funks-by-numbers in the worst possible way -- imagine Peter Cetera's Chicago covering Groove Collective. Mediocre beats mar Encore's effort and Pep Love's rhymes are old-hat bluster.

Not to mention that from KRS-One's indictment of the CIA to Mos Def's rhyming on watershed stewardship, the mike has always been a bully pulpit. But on FPV2, only Azeem throws down old-fashioned edutainment: "Organized crime/ no longer seems evil/ schools only teach how/ to work for rich people."

The New York Times recently reported that in the last decade, despite the tech boom, San Francisco's black population decreased by 8 percent. The skyrocketing rents largely forced the black community from City Center to the southern periphery, alongside a nuclear waste dump. That said, FPV2's omission of any community-mined, state-of-the-Bay jam is glaring.

- Peter Jacoby

Eternally Hard
Bitch and Animal
Righteous Babe Records

What do you get when you cross a Sesame Street--influenced fiddle player with a percussionist who started drumming on plastic cups at parties? No, it's not a joke ... it's Bitch and Animal! This New York City pair has teamed up with Ani DiFranco to release their second album, Eternally Hard, and will also be the opening act on her fall 2001 tour.

Enough about Bitch and Animal's hero (although, along with producing half of the tracks, Ani harmonizes and strums with the grrrls on this album); they have stories all their own worth hearing and hearing again. So listen up.

Eternally Hard is a collection of viciously honest and hysterically brilliant spoken-word, folk-punk and sex-equals-politics tracks encompassing 10 instruments. Bitch is classically trained on violin and bass, and Animal's in charge of ukulele and an exceptionally varied percussion collection. Both use their intentionally brash, yet clear and cleanly tuned, rhythmic voices to make sure you get the point. And by two lines into the first song, you'll want to get the point -- all of them.

Stand-out songs on the album include the first track, "Best Cock on the Block," which will stick in your memory and have you singing about giant vibrators at the most inopportune times; the chant-song "Sparkly Queen Areola," (All hail ye sparkly queen) directed at their goddess, the Sparkly Queen Areola, in praise of the breast, and the right to go topless when you need to; and finally, "Ganja," a parody of the traditional Christmas song, "Angels We Have Heard On High," that is so clever I spit out my coffee the first time it played.

I can't fathom a CD collection without Bitch and Animal. Find out what you've been missing and buy this album. And tell your friends to, too.

- Carrie Simison

Vespertine
Bjrk
Elektra

With the release of Vespertine, the eccentric Icelandic star known as Bjork catapults herself into a new musical and lyrical realm. Gone are the random explosions of musical insanity, the sense of wild and reckless abandon and the familiar earthy sounds that distinguished her three former CDs. For this latest effort she seems to have adopted an ethereal, heavenly sound and approach.

With intensely personal lyrics, Vespertine is a more mature, controlled journey. Hard-core fans may have to listen to it several times through in order for the new sound to sink in, but it's worth the effort. Unlike her other works, this isn't background music for a huge party crowd. It is much quieter, something to hunker down with in a cozy, comfortable place or something to throw on when you're in an introspective mood.

Using harps, surreal harmonies, backing choirs and an assortment of percussion, Vespertine offers 12 well-crafted songs, tight in composition and flowing with emotion.

The first track, "Hidden Place," takes its time getting into its hypnotic rhythms, daring to enter instrumental territory in which most mainstream artists don't feel comfortable.

Another standout track is the sweet "It's Not Up To You." Beginning with a few beats and some synth tones, Bjork's voice enters and takes over. Then, mixed over a chorus (sung by an Inuit choir) with a moving beat and an almost funky baseline, she incorporates lyrics. Bjork's voice is most haunting when used purely as an instrument.

This is one of those CDs that will have a different effect on every person who listens to it. This is a different Bjork, perhaps an even more eccentric one. But if you give the CD the attention it deserves, its smallest details and the emotion they provoke will take you on a journey and nurture you every step of the way.

- Suzanne Becker

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