Reviews

The brilliant minds behind Mishap Productions and the Spleen-A-Zine review some of today's most interesting and obscure music. If you'd like your album reviewed send it to 25-22 38th st. #1, Astoria NY 11103.

OPTIMUS RHYMES: More than Meets the Eye
Innovative hip hop from the San Francisco Bay Area's Jedi Knights Circle. The sound is reminiscent of earlier Hieroglyphics with confessional lyrics consisting mainly of Optimus' personal philosophies and views on mainstream culture. The production is minimalist, seamlessly blending an unlikely array of loops ranging from 50s sci-fi synth textures and slowed down accordions to classical guitar and harsh orchestral stabs. Perhaps my favorite part is Aura's flow on "the Phoenix, the Serpent" in which he describes the shallow, empty life and death of a business man with the kind of monotone urgency of a victim in shock. More than Meets the Eye is underground hip hop at it's purest, ignoring all of the corporate rap industry's inane conventions and concentrating on self expression and funky beats. Second Hand Productions, 17 Gonzalez Drive San Francsico, CA 94132

DON CAMPAU: Play Dice With Me
A random collection of home-taping guru, Don Campau's tunes going back all the way to 1984, Play Dice With Me is a bewilderingly consistent voyeuristic journey into the mind of a prolific and neurotic man. Sounding somewhat like a Syd Barrett / Iggy Pop hybrid, these spontaneous, wacky lo and no-fi new wave songs never lose their intimate and playful 4-track sensibility in the decade and a half represented here. Campau's happy songs of misery and funny songs of nervous indecision will appeal to the young at heart and misanthropic curmudgeons alike. Lonely Whistle Records, PO Box 9162, Santa Rosa, CA 95405

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND: the Lost Files
This is a collection of previously unreleased Digital Underground tracks which seem to be from their post-Tommy Boy era. There's not really any explanation on the cover - most bootlegs these days have more information than this. All it tells you is the names of the songs on top of some stock clip-art; no credits, no publishing info, no address, no UPC, no picture of the Humpty nose. If not for the infamous Digital Underground name on this cover one would think this was some unknown's demo tape or something. Indeed, there's little on this record that the casual listener would recognize as Digital Underground. Missing are most of the elements that made them extremely popular for a brief period: the gritty P-funk samples, the complex layers of voices and beats, the freaky sex rhymes, the all around attitude of silliness. There's no mention of the Dolio flow, or sex packets or virtual reality hoes. Humpty Hump is essentially missing in action; Shock G only occasionally slips into his big-nosed doppleganger's character. Instead, what we have here is simple (almost un-finished sounding) laid-back, Prince-esque, synthesized Humpty-soul comparable most to their '96 release Future Rhythm. This is not to say that I dislike this album. All the DU records have been pretty different from each other and in certain ways I like this one better than their last two. The beats are smooth but still funky. The lyrics seem serious compared to most of the Underground canon - but never preachy. Shock is introspective, exploring the "playa" lifestyle and eventually rejecting it, but never losing the underlying element of fun. I'm maybe not getting across how much I like this record; I would definitely encourage people to try and get it, but then I think everybody should own all the Digital Underground records. As one of the most undeservedly slept-on, underrated hip hop crews of all time, Lost Files serves up more proof that the DFlow crew aren't a novelty or a nostalgia act. Little Butta Records

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