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On Praxis, DJs Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Shortkut, and Disk joined Bill Laswell's noise-rock band Praxis for a 1996 live show that's a dazzling exhibition of turntable skill. On top of and alongside basic scratching (the hip-hop equivalent of a guitarist's power chord), they spew forth a torrent of sounds, everything from movie bad-guy lines to slices of jazz to bleeps and blats created by manipulation of turntable and mixer.

Technically it's as impressive as hearing Clapton at maximum riffage. It flows like water, is musical as hell, and at times achieves a Hendrixian intensity. Praxis is a match for the DJs, with Bill Laswell's swooping bass lines flying in and around the Scratch Pickles, while guitarist Buckethead ups the ante with monstrous chords and frenzied leads.

The proof that DJs like the Invisible Scratch Pickles are the new guitar heroes can be found at the shows, where everyone crams toward the front for a better view of their fingers. Watch out for those elbows!

-- Lee Ballinger

Standing in My Shoes
Leo Kottke
(Private Music)

In the wake of Beck, even old-schoolers like Leo Kottke are getting hip-hop hip. On his umpteenth album, Kottke teams with producer and former Prince cohort David Z for an intriguing, occasionally convincing synthesis of the guitarist's left-field visions and drum loops that suggest exposure to Mellow Gold and Odelay.

Some of Standing in My Shoes, especially instrumentals like "Realm" and the snoozily atmospheric "Across the Street," is barely a step up from tasteful background music. Other cuts, though, such as a beat-smart re-recording of "Vaseline Machine Gun" from his legendary first album 6- and 12-String Guitar and the Delta-flamenco fusion of "Dead End," demonstrate the wisdom of the Kottke/Z pairing. Kottke's take on Fleetwood Mac's "World Turning" doesn't stray far from the original's arrangement, but his addition of a droning sitar illuminates the tune's gutter-blues roots. The title track, another revival of early Kottke, also effectively mates groove and stoic soulfulness. His collaboration with Z doesn't mark a great leap forward, but Standing is a modestly brave move.

-- Rickey Wright

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