Various Artists
Descarga boricua

The first time this grooved beyond my apartment window, everyone walking by danced all the way to the corner A senior citizens included.

Producer FranFerrer has done a prime job packing into this double CD a swinging blend of all that is sonorous about Latin music A s centsn montano, rumba, bomba, plena, Latin jazz, and of course the occasional tun-tun of a bata drum, as in "Contra mar y mareo" and the tribute to Afro-spirituality called "Espiritu de la verdad."

The title cut, a fifteen-minute-plus sound extravaganza, and "Homenaje a Cachao" display outstanding musical dynamics, comparable to anything by the now famous Famia All-Stars, truly an homage to the tradition of descarga and its pioneer.

Then again these CDs contain some of the most amazing Latin-music all-stars to emerge from Borinquen (now known as Puerto Rico). Among the standouts are pianist Eric Figueroa (formerly with Ray Barreto), trombonist Papo Vazquez, conguero Angel "Cachete" Maldonado (founding member of the seminal group Batacumbele), percussionist Anthony Carillo and singer Jerry Medina (also from Batacumbele), Ismael Miranda, Justo Betancourt, and Wichi Camacho. But the whole host of others who've tip-toed thorough the annals of Latin music are not to be neglected.

The intensity and sabor of the title cut weave in and out A much to the relief of my heart rate and blood pressure. However, even when the spine-tingling skins and wind instruments recede, solos and general groove are crisp, sharp, outspoken. This release can definitely be etched in the halls of Latin music history as another of Puerto Rico's fine contributions. Esta si va!

-- Adrian Castro

Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral

Rumor has it that Lloyd's of London has insured Trent Reznor's insanity for ten million dollars. If he ever cleans up his head, Interscope collects. Fortunately for us, Reznor is one sick puppy and promises to remain that way. His current yelp of psychic pain finds him circling the industrial drain. If anything this latest Flood/Alan Moulder production is even more tortured than NIN's Pretty Hate Machine and Broken. This time Reznor is not content to merely bludgeon us with beats and vocoder catharsis. Occasionally he slips us the reprieve, the solace of "A Warm Place" or the caress of a piano before the next harrowing round of malicious, delicious, machine-driven noise.

Reznor's violence has a precision that mocks the all-out barrage and posturing of death metal. Downward Spiral spikes the standard-issue apocalypse with the scotch bonnet of self-destruction, from the sound of accelerating blows to a punching bag in "Mr. Self Destruct" to the album's lyrical lash ("I want to fuck you like an animal/My whole existence is flawed/You get me closer to God.") It's an E-ticket to the asylum, with hooks to boot.

-- J.C. Herz

Various artists
Music from the Soundtrack: Valley Girl
(Rhino Records)

So like, I called up the dood from Rhino Records, and asked, like, what's the deal with the Valley Girl soundtrack? Are you releah going to, like, re-release it after all these years, cuz it's been, like, outta print (gag me)? And he said, like, "Yeah! Fer shur!" Cuz like, all us twentysomethings are getting, like, totally nostalgic for the Reagan years.

Black rubber bracelets, gummy shoes, mesh belts, and the Psychedelic Furs are, like, kew-ell memory-lane items now. And so, like, I motored down to the mall to pick up this album, and it's, like, total nostalgia: Plimsouls, Josie Cotton, Modern English, the Furs. "Who Can It Be Now" by Men at Work. Omigod, it was like a Square Pegs rerun. Totally awesome, fer shur.

-- J.C. Herz

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Adrian Castro
J.C. Herz