Since 1991, and particularly since the 1993 release of The Singles collection, no one has internationally repped Miami house music better than Murk's Oscar G and Ralph Falcon, from hedonism-inducing anthems like "Dark Beat" to the memorable pseudonyms they use for various projects (Coral Way Chief, Deep South, Liberty City). As local ambassadors, though, they've had to withstand considerable pressure as they attempt to take their time in the studio yet still keep people happy with new, top-quality product. Their relatively modest output and many aliases have not particularly helped build a national fan base, and may have also kept them from becoming the behemoth superstars that the international dance scene might have hoped of them.

But this new self-titled effort, the duo's first album of original material under the Murk moniker, evinces that they should not be written off just yet. Tamara Wallace, the belting voice behind "Star," "Fired Up!" and other memorable songs from Murk's popular Funky Green Dogs project, simmers delicately on standouts like "Believe" and "True"; she sounds more mature and assured of her abilities than before, as do Oscar and Ralph, who opt for bright chords and melodies as an alternative to the usual "hit 'em over the head" fare. Greg "Stryke" Chin, who is best known for his DJ sets, steps out as a singer here and puts a Euro-dance slant on his vocals for "True" and "Let Me Go." The instrumental "Opera" bests Malcolm McLaren's early-Nineties techno version of "Madame Butterfly" for campy schlock value, good for those moments when people really need a bit of silliness (but not much else) on the dance floor.

The duo's remake of their early Liberty City hit "Some Lovin'" with Kristine W is presumably supposed to be another highlight, but it does little to surpass the mighty original. This may be due in part to the utter charm of the earlier, off-key rendition and the unfettered throb of the bass line, which is somewhat buried in the new version. It sounds just a bit too slick and polished, though it admittedly still has a leg up on the glut of house tracks out there even ten years after its creation. Nevertheless Murk's place in the house music pantheon remains secure.

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Tamara Palmer