-- Adam Heimlich

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook: Remixed
Star Rise
(Real World/Caroline)

This disc features Asian underground artists reinterpreting tracks from a pair of collaborations between the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Canadian producer Michael Brook (1990's Mustt Mustt and 1996's Night Song). Throughout the set Khan's ecstatic vocals provide a core of spiritual sustenance, while producers, DJs, and sonic adventurers such as Talvin Singh, Asian Dub Foundation, and Aki Nawaz add dashes and pinches of spice and flavor. The results are both challenging and tasty, something akin to classic Pakistani cuisine.

Athough the tracks vary, the basic recipe for Star Rise is as follows:
1 Sufi chant
1 harmonium drone
1 soaring vocal line
1 ethereal keyboard wash
2 fluttering high hats
1 pulsing bass
1 flanging drum loop
1 wet propulsive guitar lick
2 dry snare beats
1 corkscrewing sitar
various elastic space blips and percussive flourishes

Combine Sufi chant and harmonium drone until spiritual vibe is established. Add pulsing bass and fluttering high hats. Heat thoroughly, paying careful attention not to overwhelm the chant and hence lose the vibe. Using separate tracks, combine the snare beats and the guitar lick. Soak thoroughly and add to mix. At this point you may want to turn up the fire and burn off some of the high hat. Stir constantly to avoid clotting. Mixture should thicken but never obscure the original vibe.

Add soaring vocal line and corkscrewing sitar, then cover with keyboard wash. Sprinkle on space blips and percussive flourishes to taste. Feel free to improvise and rearrange ingredients. Used mindfully, the above recipe will yield flavorful, compelling, and nourishing results. Serve hot with favorite intoxicating beverage.

-- John Lewis


Too little Krautrock makes it to these shores. Let me rephrase that: Too little Krautrock gets released on a major label here. And when it does, it occurs almost invariably only after a specific song has experienced massive commercial success in Europe. Even then, too often that particular German song winds up being re-recorded in English by the artist in question (e.g., Nena's ridiculous, lovable "99 Luftballons") or corrupted by an inferior English-language cover version (e.g., After the Fire's gustless retooling of Falco's comically subversive "Der Kommissar" -- and before you get huffy, yes, I know, Falco is Austrian, not German, so simmer down).

Now along come Germany's newest hitmakers, Rammstein, whose two albums to date, 1995's Herzeleid (Heartache) and last year's Sehnsucht (Longing), have already topped the German charts, also performing well in Switzerland and Austria. So, figures American record company Slash, why not give the U.S. market a spin -- where's the harm? On Sehnsucht the six-man band, led by the stern vocals of Till Lindemann, work mostly in a pummeling metal vein, not too far removed from their German predecessors the Scorpions and Accept, but like so many other artists these days, Rammstein favors a highly hybridized sound. For instance, on the title song, which opens the album, the band peppers its hungry power chords and sledgehammer beat with a background muezzin wail, a nifty hip-hop shuffle during a brief break, and the synth riff from the Who's "Who Are You." Similarly, you can hear echoes of Beck, David Bowie in his late-Seventies Berlin guise, dopey Wax Trax industrial posturing, and Ennio Morricone during the course of "Tier." Elsewhere, glimmers of Jan Hammer, Falco, Giorgio Moroder, Silver Convention, and late-Eighties English "grebo" rockers seep through the metallic throb, and "Spiel Mit Mir" cobbles together bits of Led Zep's "Kashmir" and the Who's "Eminence Front."

All great thumping fun, especially when Lindemann gets guttural. And the tolerance level is greatly heightened if you don't understand German, because the songs function strictly as music -- not, you know, narrative or commentary. Which makes it unfortunate that the band and/or record company felt compelled to include English-language versions of "Engel" and "Du Hast" at the end of the disc. Kind of ruins everything, much like hearing an opera performed in English.

-- Michael Yockel

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