Rapper/chatter/singer M.I.A., Sri Lankan by way of the UK, continues on Kala to explore the combination of her Eastern roots and Western upbringing that she began on her splashy entry, Arular. Traveling to southern India for inspiration and a collection of indigenous sounds, she has taken, say, a 2000-year-old Tamil drum and transformed its booming tones into big-bottomed bass that smacks of UK garage sensibilities.
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The bone-shattering bass, gaudy jangle of street sounds, noisy blare of horns, and rings, trills, and shouts of cities' claustrophobic bustle are at the heart of every track on Kala. M.I.A. explodes into your consciousness with the blazing album opener, "Bamboo Banga," on which her borderline lazy delivery seems violent in its very carelessness. On "Boyz," the kick drum jackknifes you in the chest while the whistles and whoops of a street fair seem to mock you. But Kala is not strictly about loosening your fillings. "Jimmy" gurgles with a beat pattern that harks back to guilty-pleasure Seventies variety-show dance numbers. Kala is a solid 9.5, giving M.I.A. half a point to grow on.