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Issue #57 December 2003

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The Reindeer Room
Kenneth Hope
Monosyllabic Compilation
Marlon Saunders

Various Artists
The Reindeer Room Volume II: A Christmas Chillout

Kriztal Entertainment
15 song CD plus DVD

If your holiday music selection is getting a little tired, what could be better than sitting in front of the fireplace, chilling out with the most modern Christmas music you can find? Even if you don't have a fireplace, The Reindeer Room has you covered---they've provided one for you on the additional DVD! It's a nice touch that makes this holiday collection the perfect gift for any hip music lover on your list.

The disc starts off with DJ Trax creating a new-beat twist on an old standard, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which dives into a slow groove while singer Anna Hurst provides the soulful vocals. Next up, we get an acid-jazzed version of Rogers & Hammerstein's My Favorite Things, in which LED & Panaphonic pick up where Coltrane left off. From there we run across a trippy take on Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy by Charles Afton, which sounds like an intrigue underscore from a spy thriller soundtrack, while Kurbis Blumen's We Three Kings has definite funk undertones underlying the jazzy melody. Jon Kennedy provides an original and entertaining piece of dance floor magic with his The Goose Is Getting Fat, which is one part soul and one part frantic. Rounding out the disc is Tetsumi Nagaka's Faithful Ye Come and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by Billy Paul Williams featuring Nicole Henry. Nagaka's Faithful is like Manheim Steamroller with a shot in the arm, while Williams and Henry deliver a hep-cat acid take on everybody's favorite Kringle ditty.

So light the fire, or at least fire up the DVD, sit back and chill the halls this Yuletide season.

MISH MASH Mandate: Hot Holidays

Kriztal Website

Kenneth Hope
The Journey

12 song CD

If you like your Christmas music a little more traditional, and even more laid back, then Journey by Kenneth Hope is the one for you. He falls more into the vein of New Age, if only for a lack of a better category. His sounds are ethereal and atmospheric, at times sounding natural and pastoral, and at others as if you're sitting in a cathedral. The sounds at times are open and expansive, and sometimes close and comfortable, yet always full of the emotional bite that holiday songs need to still have an impact.

Among the more interesting tunes is the marching caravan sounds of The Journey, a song which carries us through desert landscapes towards an endless horizon. From here, Hope ventures into a droning and lonely version of We Three Kings, the perfect contrast to the driving nature of the previous song. From there he takes another left turn into the happy jazz piano of Santa Baby. All the bases are covered.

MISH MASH Mandate: Happy Mellowdays

Kenneth Hope Website

Various Artists
Monosyllabic 001: Landscaping and Yard Maintenance

Monosyllabic Records
18 song CD

OK, now here's something for all of you who are depressed with the holidays. Monosyllabic Records has pulled together 18 artists who are dissonant and not in the mood for seasonal festivities, the perfect antidote for your ho-hum holidays.

The group Nap Attack! starts off in the right direction with the lazy drag of Castle Greyscale, a slow and meandering track of noise which goes nowhere fast. This feeling is continued at a slightly faster pace with Sounds Like Braille's Sunbeam Stacatto. I'm reminded of one of my favorite bands from Athens about 10 years ago, Bliss, in the song America'sby Lot's Of Jay Squeezin' It, with their wild juxtaposition of quiet jangly guitar lines accented with jarring blasts of thrashing noise. Just brilliant! Moving on, the band Ent sneaks up on us with the driving and rambling fusion-inspired prog of Underwater They Looked Like Spaceships. Meanwhile, Traindodge pulls out all the stops with the aggressive riffs of Five Forks, which nicely deconstructs modern rock into partially unstructured elements of noise and rhythm. The wild, reckless, flamenco-like guitar runs on Oso's Movement Burn Ready Noon set a tone of uneased confusion, quietly putting a delicate-yet-crazed touch to this collection of music madness.

This ain't pop, and it ain't pretty!

MISH MASH Mandate: Madness...Madness!

Monosyllabic Records Website

Marlon Saunders
Enter My Mind

Black Honey Records
14 song CD

Oh yeah! Marlon Saunders ain't nothing but one superfly soul daddy. If you thought Prince was slick, wait until you hear this guy; Saunders sounds like a certified lady killer circa 1976. He blends a perfect blend of soul, R&B, funk, and jazz to create the ultimate make-out disc. Come feel the love...

The title track begins the disc with little doubt as it settles into a slow groove, with Saunders providing the high-flying soul falsetto cries of love, while Keep Doin' What Ya Do has a cool and solid beat. Saunders returns to the tried-and-true slow groove for Premonition, only to funk it up again with Love Serenade and Afro Blue My Mind. By far the best track on the album is found in the old school pop harmonies of For Love, where the groove is light and the melody is magic, with just the right hint of the aforementioned Prince. Not sure if this particular tune could make it far on the sad and fractured radio of today, but 25 years ago this would have been a huge hit.

MISH MASH Mandate: Soul-licious

Marlon Saunders Website