Burnt Sugar: Blood On The Leaf (2000) — now with podcast!


Listen to an exclusive interview with Greg Tate, leader of Burnt Sugar.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: Although best known for his wondrous music column in the Village Voice and for co-founding the Black Rock Coalition, Greg Tate is also the conductor for his genre-demolishing improvisational ensemble Burnt Sugar, whose first album is the heady and mesmerizing Blood on the Leaf. Inspired in part by Miles Davis’ freeform extravaganza Bitches Brew, Burnt Sugar births songs as living organisms, formed on the spot yet sounding uncannily like heavily practiced compositions.

This magic trick is the result of combining dozens of musicians from around the world, each bringing their unique slant to performance, and Tate’s use of Butch Morris’ Conduction System, by which one can “play” the orchestra members as one can play keys on a piano.

Which sounds downright bizarre if not next to impossible but, like hot sauce on a watermelon slice, Blood on the Leaf produces new flavors that would never otherwise exist.

Sonically Burnt Sugar reveals an endlessly inventive palette of textures, shifting from warmongering alien landings to chilled-out meditations, usually within the same song. Motifs vanish and return with new friends, sometimes dignified and dapper, sometimes troubled and frantic, and almost always funky.

Check out the interview and you can listen to Greg Tate discuss the challenges of promoting a Black orchestral improv group, their reception in Europe and their upcoming “R&B crossover album”.

Blood on the Leaf is available through Amazon and you can listen to tracks below:

Effortlessly emotional and three-dimensional, Blood on the Leaf sears into your veins like blood transfusion and charges you up with exotic quasi-legal nutrients.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Cee-Lo gets his freak flag dropped to half-mast.

Dr. Octagon: Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)


HMOs could never rock’n’roll like this.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 1996 surfing the Web was a silent activity until multimedia company Macromedia announced Shockwave®, the first browser plug-in that could play sound over the Internet. I excitedly downloaded and installed Shockwave then clicked on one the few song samples Macromedia had posted, expecting to hear something simple, basic. What I heard instead was a molasses-slow alien ooze, undulating under tender displaced violins, punctuated by a single note bass line and a calmly disturbed emcee:

Dr. Octagon, paramedic fetus of the east
With priests, I’m from the church of the operating room
With the strike support, scalpels since the holocaust
I do indeed in greed, explore meet the patients
Back to brooms with the nurse with the voodoo curse
Holding up office lights, standing at huge heights
Back and forth, left wing swing to north
East and south with blood pouring down your mouth
I come prepared with the white suit and stethoscope
Listen to your heartbeat, delete beep beep beep
Your insurance is high, but my price is cheap
Look at the land… blue flowers!

By this point I’d completely forgotten about the technological feat of audio streaming because my synapses were in overload. What was he on about? Who was responsible for this unhinged brilliance?

Turns out Dr. Octagonecologyst was the brainchild of ex-Ultramagnetic MCs rapper Kool Keith and up-and-coming producer Dan The Automator, with supremely wicked scratching by DJ Q-Bert. Kool Keith had long been twisting surreal verses about animals and orifices under assumed names but this was the first time his alter-ego had consumed an entire project.

The good doctor was on a mission to misdiagnose, over-medicate and violate all patients while traveling through time and space. Over a soundscape of boom-baps, blip-blips and skits that mimicked a 1950s hospital drama, Kool Keith uncoiled intricate rhymes of unbridled lunacy.

They drop science of the nonsensical kind in “No Awareness” (Reinforce mixing copper nickel-beryllium oxide/Concentric layers, proportional carbon density of the radius/Indisturbed existence if it does produce contradictory statements) and meet mutations in the creepy “Halfsharkalligatorhalfman” (With my white eyes, gray hair, face is sky-blue yellow/ Sideburns react, my skin is colored lilac/ My skin turn orange and green in the limousine/People think I’m mixed with shark, drinking gasoline).

Radio transmissions of the alien kind infiltrate the beat-poetry of “Technical Difficulties”, while the doctor reinterprets the Hippocratic oath in the clinically gangsta “Waiting List”:

You enter, step in the room, 4, 5
My overcompressed thoughts and ways make you get live
You are the patient, and I your black doctor,
Medical bills, insurance, cash in the ceiling.
Dioxalyn fingerprints here ever since
I got my white suit pressed, out the cleaners,
X-ray shades, with hard shoes and some razor blades
Who’s the brother that’s sick, and needs the operation?
Bullets removed from your head, grand central station
I gotta cut off your ear, first behind your neck
Rip out the stomach, and open rectum’s to dissect
Shine the light, inside, roaches crawling in your throat
I have no tools, my hammer’s done, my drill is broke

An underground indie record sensation, Dr. Octagonecologyst was picked up and re-released by major label Dreamworks Records…

THE FALLOUT: … a label best known for country superstar Toby Keith and alternative rockers AFI and Papa Roach. Communication breakdown between the band members and the label came swift and hard, resulting in Kool Keith refusing to perform on a tour booked without his consent. Dr. Octagon soon disbanded, and Kool Keith had the doctor whacked on his next album, Dr. Dooom’s First Come, First Served.

Dr. Octagonecologyst is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Doing for doctors what Little Shop Of Horrors did for dentists, Dr. Octagonecologyst transforms repulsion into altered consciousness.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Behold the Casio-Tone shrine of Spookie.

Common: Electric Circus (2002)


One day it’ll all make sense.

Purchase this album: Amazon

In 2000 Chicago-based conscious rapper Common released his third album, the instant classic Like Water For Chocolate. His first Top Twenty and first gold record, Chocolate’s lyrical depth and tight songs catapulted his ascendance into hip-hop’s big leagues. But his next album was in a league of its own, the retro-rockin’ Electric Circus.

Utilizing musicians and singers from rock, rap and R&B, he filled the album with gurgling organs, backwards noises and distorted guitar solos, the cumulative effect akin to hearing a rap album from 1967.

Adding to the surprises Common doesn’t even show up until the second song. The Zap Mama singers help tilt the carnival feel of “Ferris Wheel” into an ad hoc intro theme, then Common drops the boom-bap in “Soul Power” over a gumbo of spooky voices and violins.

Lyrically he chooses to be more impressionistic than specific, which suits the creepy French spy chase of “New Wave” and the psychedelic gospel of “Electric Wire Hustler Flower”:

Mercury and retrograde,
I’m trying to get niggas in the ghetto paid
While they watch pornos and Escalades,
away from floats and the dope in sex parades
Somebody screamin in my mind, I’m tryin to find if it’s me
Or voices on the master, they design to be free
Same revolt, can’t be found on TV, or radio, its livin in me
Hey lady, that smoke is bothering me
If I put it in your eye, ashes you would cry
All this rap talk is blowing my high
I just came to chill and build with my guy
I try to walk but I stumble off the humble path
This story of a pimp stick that became a staff
You got it, you gotta know where to aim the Mag
Art and opinions are made to clash

When he does focus his thoughts he brings forth the meditative and liquid “Between Me, You & Liberation”. A nearly spoken word poem on death and release, it floats in a midnight pool of jazzy drums and squirmy tones.

Common updates ragtime in “I Am Music” fusing fantastic bleary horns with UFO landing sounds. He also remakes rock’n’roll in the Hendrix homage “Jimi Was A Rock Star” an eight-minute exorcism of piledriving drums and head-bashing fret shredding.

With the right amount of record-label promotion, precisely setting and resetting expectations, this was the album to make his career.

THE FALLOUT: Three weeks after Electric Circus’ release, Common’s record label dissolved. Without adequate promotion it never gained a footing into other music circles, which left it squarely in the hip-hop camp. Journalists and fans dismissed it as un-listenable trash and publicly blamed his then-girlfriend, Erykah Badu, as the catalyst for his hideous transformation. His next album, Be, was a return to acceptance and sales, and free of all Circus’ progressiveness.

Electric Circus is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

See you next year.

NEXT YEAR: More albums, more obscurities, more cultures, and more uppityness.

Yeah, I know “uppityness” isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.

Saul Williams: Saul Williams (2004)


Grippo on another level.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 2001 New York slam-poet Saul Williams released his first album Amethyst Rock Star, the result of a difficult, label-controlled recording process. His unhappiness led him to kick his label to the curb and record his follow up on his own, the self-representative Saul Williams.

Wielding his flexible voice like a Swiss Army knife, Williams inhabits his energetic poems with an endless range of vocal styles – rapping, reciting, singing, shouting – while emoting his pet themes of self-awareness and hip-hop stagnation.

The xenophobic “Talk to Strangers” features unsettlingly icy piano from Serj Tankian (the lead singer of System Of A Down), its ballet grace compounding the paranoid confessional.

“Grippo”, Williams’ name for the song’s industrial punk-hop style, was written after attending a paradigm-shifting concert by white rappers. “So substitute the anger and oppression/ With the guilt and depression/ And its yours.” Stuck together like Brooklyn traffic, the greasy punk vocal dances around the guitars’ car alarm melody.

Hip-hop gets a stern talking-to in the vicious “Telegram”. Old-school flow melts over older-school heavy metal as Williams broadcasts the message:

We are discontinuing our current line of braggadocio,
in light of the current trend in “realness”. (stop).
As an alternative, we will be confiscating weed supplies
and replacing them with magic mushrooms,
in hopes of helping niggas see beyond their reality. (stop).

Williams backs up a truck full of cutting-edge beats and sounds to his prose. “List of Demands (Reparations)” finds him pleading over the vibration of massive turbines, and the distorted, dry, pasta crunch drums of “African Student Movement” charmingly unifies the rhythms of urban industrial and African township.

The piano jazz of “Black Stacey” is a humorous platform for him to croon and scat painful recollections of childhood racial politics:

I used to use bleaching creme,
’til Madame CJ Walker walked into my dreams.
I dreamt of being white and complimented by you,
but the only shiny black thing that you liked was my shoes….
I was Black Stacey.
the preachers’ son from Haiti
who rhymed a lot and always got
the dance steps at the party.
I was Black Stacey.
you thought it wouldn’t faze me,
but it did
’cause I was just a kid.

Multiple voices, rock solid flow, exciting tunes, a high-profile arts career – what happened to this album?

THE FALLOUT: I looked for Saul Williams in the Rock section of my favorite record store. Finding nothing I then zoomed over to the Spoken Word section, where I found lots of similar albums by poets, although they were all Caucasian. Eventually I found it the Hip-Hop section, after the Westside Connection divider.

Usually an album this diverse would be placed in the Rock section, as it generally serves as a catch-all for departure albums. I wonder how many people looked for it and simply gave up the search.

Saul Williams is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

A propulsive snapshot of his current mental state, Saul Williams is the sound of a free thinker, an alive mind, and hot beats.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Shuggie Otis breaks with convention, and possibly reality.

Public Enemy: Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (1994)


Biting the hand that feeds.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 1992 the much-loved Public Enemy tasted their first cup of Haterade after releasing the concept-free semi-remix album Greatest Misses. Undaunted, they returned in 1994 with the brilliantly bitter Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age, a fusillade of finely tuned aggression and progressive noises.

PE focused its rage on the supply chain of the record industry: morally bankrupt record companies, elitist and impotent music journalists, and the audience that supports them both. Or to put it another way, they had a big problem with their own label, critics and you, personally.

Gangsta rap was becoming the genre of choice among hip-hop fans and the labels responded by pumping out more gangsta rap, a product that PE found to be morally toxic to its audience. As keepers of the pro-Black agenda they were certainly not going to start writing songs about “beating bitches down”. (OK, they did write that in “Sophisticated Bitch” but that song was on the first album and that was, like, a long time ago and stuff.)

So had you just stopped purchasing gangsta rap and the culture of consumer crap it represented, they wouldn’t have had to record such R&B diatribes as “Give It Up”. Bad consumer. Stop it.

The utter uselessness of music critics is demonstrated in the hazy mule train of “I Stand Accused”, while PE publicist Harry Allen dissected the utter uselessness of major labels in “Harry Allen’s Interactive Super Highway”. Nine years before Apple’s iTunes Music Store debuted, Allen sharply predicted the legal sale of digital music and how it would empower the creators and destabilize the record industry.

The intensity of these messages is matched with unique sounds, live instrumentation and explosive, challenging rhythms. The eco-warning “Race Against Time” cleverly sloooooows down the beat to make its point. “Aintnuttin Buttersong” laments the propaganda of the “The Star Spangled Banner” while paying homage to Jimi Hendrix’s Vietnam-era interpolation, chaotic guitar included.

Flavor Flav even kicksed in a serious song with a remake of The Last Poets “The White Man’s Got a God Complex”. Flav wrestled the kinetic sparseness with a venom he’d never shown before:

I’m making guns! (Uptown, I’m God!)
I’m making bombs! (Uptown, I’m God!)
I’m making gas! (Uptown, I’m God!)…
Birth control pills! (Uptown, I’m God!)
Told the Indians I discovered them! (Uptown, I’m God!)…

The concept of “discovering Indians” returned with the hovering incendiary metal of “Hitler Day”, which rowdily recasted Columbus Day as a celebration of a 500-year genocide.

Now that’s gangsta.

THE FALLOUT: PE’s label Def Jam were not pleased with the album (shock!) and barely promoted it. Critics were sharply divided, depending if they felt picked on or not. Although “Give it Up” was a minor hit, the audience really, really wanted to keep buying that G-Funk, and Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age stalled.

Public Enemy didn’t record another non-soundtrack album for five years, but when they did they took their own advice. 1999’s There’s A Poison Goin’ On was released on their own label, as an MP3 album.

Muse… is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age is an extremely gutsy and extremely engaging album. Forward-sounding, retro-leaning and wholly unique.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Saul Williams would like some words with you.

Barry Adamson: Soul Murder (1992)


Crime does not pay, but soundtracks might.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 1989, Bad Seeds ex-bassist Barry Adamson released his first solo album Moss Side Story, the acclaimed noir soundtrack to a wholly imagined non-existent thriller. This success led to him scoring an actual movie (1991’s Delusion) and recording his follow-up, the darkly cool construct of Soul Murder.

Thematically concerned with the criminal justice system it begins with “Preface”, which blends air raid sirens with one convicts’ hostile rap sheet recitation from the excellent documentary Scared Straight:

“I’m in for murder, kidnapping, robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy, breakin’ a dude’s jaw and breakin’ a fuckin’ woman’s both her goddamn arms! Look (what) the fuck’s happened to me!”

The mood lightens considerably with the detective yarn “Split”. Adamson narrates the whimsical pastiche of swing jazz and beat poetry under the aliases of “Oscar de la Soundtrack, Mr. Moss Side Gory, (and) Harry Pendulum”. A martini-sharp walking bass line anchors a wonderfully rambling tale of an investigator’s passion for his work.

The glee ends abruptly with “A Gentle Man of Colour”. Over a soundscape of unsettling noises it chillingly recasts a mob lynching as the subject of an emotionless evening news report. Although the story is all too familiar the neutrality of the announcer becomes a new additional horror.

From this point on, Soul Murder makes a detour into other pseudo-scores. The icy keyboards of “Checkpoint Charlie” hint at a midnight chase through a Eurail station, while the throbbing and whistle-filled “Un Petit Miracle” is ripe for addition to early 80s French cartoons.

“007, A Fantasy Bond Theme” is a clever scenario that re-imagines James Bond as a Jamaican daydreamer, resulting in an inspired ska-based. period-sounding interpretation of the James Bond theme.

“The Adamson Family” is a swinging toe-tapper that begins, quite naturally, with the actual sound of toe taps. Strings swirls around a sweet marimba that brings to mind skating in a “black tie only” ice rink, if such an ice rink existed.

Not that an objects’ physical existence has been a sticking point for Barry Adamson.

THE FALLOUT: As you may have read in my Terence Trent D’Arby review, it’s quite common to suffer the sophomore slump if your first album was an out-of-the-box success. Soul Murder was received as a letdown after the brilliance of Moss Side Story, and remains one of Barry Adamson’s more obscure albums.

Soul Murder is available worldwide from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

A dark yet comical enigma, the conceptual flights of Soul Murder are a refreshing change from the bold and logical.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Chuck D realizes that dropping science can get you dropped.

Jungle Brothers: J. Beez Wit The Remedy (1993)


More native, less tongue.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 1993, New York’s Jungle Brothers had oodles of respect but had yet to create a breakthrough album. These founding members of the Native Tongues rap collective dropped the well-regarded Done By The Forces of Nature in 1989, the next year they were commercially upstaged by fellow Tongues A Tribe Called Quest’s career-defining .People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. To ramp up their game they enlisted the expansive talents of producer Bill Laswell and some four years later they popped out the schizophrenic J. Beez Wit The Remedy.

Much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, J.Beez sways back and forth between two poles, head-bobbin’ beat-heavy linguistic assaults and bizarre tone-free sound collage.

In the head-bobbin’ corner, The JB’s smoothly ride the beat of the crisp “40 Below Trooper” with scratched-in horn samples a-plenty. “Book of Rhyme Pages” begins with the active clacks of a typewriter (remember those?) and segues into a piston-tight flow:

Some see the end, but then some see nothing
The pages keep on turning and my DJ keeps on cutting.
My constant high on life combats stress and strife,
But there always comes a time when you must sacrifice
So my cells ripidy pop as the lovely lyrics drop
I’m never going back; I’m over stocked with stock
Cops and thiefs both practice same beliefs
So I run and make my own
So I don’t need grief

Over in the bizarre corner “Blahbludify” sounds like five different songs played simultaneously, all on defective CD players. Drum machines suffer from tremors, the codeine-slow vocals slur underneath shards of tinkly piano, and many sounds end without starting.

In “Spittin Wicked Randomness” their zooted-up raps glide over glass breaking and electrical hums, with beats that simulate a free-falling industrial elevator changing floors.

The deranged carnival organ and background shouting of “For The Headz At Company Z” is the ideal soundtrack for that sketchy, psychotic ice cream truck driver that makes all the local kids nervous.

By the time you get to the random snippet tapestry of “Man Made Material”, it’s clear that the Jungle Brothers intended to hijack rap and drag it into a new progressive new world.

THE FALLOUT: Their original album, titled Crazy Wisdom Masters, was rejected by their label repeatedly for over two years. After excising several songs, several mixes, the title and the producer, the now neutered album — retitled J. Beez Wit The Remedy — was still nutty enough to catch fans off-guard and J. Beez never caught on with the public. Once again, The Jungle Brothers didn’t release their next album for another four years.

It’s currently out of print but Amazon carries used copies and you can listen to tracks here from both J. Beez Wit The Remedy and Crazy Wisdom Masters:

So fresh it sounds like it was released two hours ago, J. Beez Wit The Remedy is a lucrative mind puzzle for the sonically enhanced.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Sly Stone’s first attempt to take you higher.

Miles Davis: Dark Magus (1977)


Kind of Black.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: Considering his deification nowadays it’s hard to believe that Miles Davis was once considered washed up. In 1974 he was several years into his “electric phase”, a modern sound that got him booked into larger rock halls but did not reconnect him with the black audience. To fix that problem he added a major dose of funk to his songs, culminating in the recording of Dark Magus.

Miles stopped writing tunes at this time, preferring to bandlead through osmosis and letting the songs flow through the process. He wrapped his new sound around distinct African rhythms, a saxophone player and three, count ‘em, THREE guitarists with a fistful of fuzz pedals. The result was unlike anything else in the Davis canon.

Mean-spirited, brutal, demonic, it’s a harsh trip into psyche of a man at the end of his rope. Distorted guitars rage into the atmosphere, adding a raw heavy metal vibe. The songs don’t really start and stop as much as they transform into different amalgamations of riffs and beats. “Moja” features an oppressive dissonance anchored by a steady cowbell, but that cowbell helps lead the song through its twenty-four minutes of tonal displacement.

Mysterious and muscular, even his trumpet tone had changed from his early ultra-cool mode to an insistent mosquito honk, rattling off brittle bursts in “Tatu”.

Dark Magus was recorded live at Carnegie Hall, a stately room that usually features classical performers and public speakers. Why this was the place to unleash the shrill atonal keyboard mashing of “Wili” is anybody’s guess. Then again, Miles was on heavy diet of Percodan and cocaine at the time, so decision-making wasn’t his strong suit.

THE FALLOUT: Critics hated it. Fans hated it. His own label hated it. In his own autobiography Miles fails to mention it. Dark Magus was so heavy on his soul that he only recorded two more albums before retiring from performing altogether.

Out of print for over twenty years (except in Japan) it’s now available from Amazon and you can listen to tracks here:

From a modern standpoint Dark Magus is quite tame, as music has actually gotten harsher, faster and more acrid since its debut. If you’ve ever wondered what Metallica would sound like as an improv group, this is your album.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: The Jungle Brothers get all Sybil on us.

Chocolate Genius: Godmusic (2001)


Alter-ego tripping.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: All over the world, for as long as human have performed, masks have been used to shelter identities while speaking truths, no matter how base those truths may be. New York musician Marc Anthony Thompson released two pop-soul albums under his own name in the 1980s but unleashed his sacred and profane persona Chocolate Genius in the late ‘90s. Witty and urbane, naïve and spastic his second album Godmusic demands your respect without requiring your approval.

His burnished, hushed baritone draws you in like a confessional then traps you there like a fly in a web, each song slowly progressing as if gravity is its enemy. On first listen the tunes seem ordinary, familiar, but each playback reveals additional layers.

The hymnlike moods are caressed into creation, from the mournful barbershop quartet of “Infidel Blues” or the ambient piano accents of the womb-like “Love”:

Love, love, love/ Poets talk
Love, love, love/ They don’t know
Love, love, love/ Stupid motherfuckers

Lyrically searching for happiness in a bleak world, he evokes a new dawn rising in the shimmering “Bossman Piss (In My Lemonade)” and literally creates God music with the ringing and squealing “To Serve You”.

“Planet Rock” is not a cover of the Afrika Bambaataa classic but a wheezy and cheesy eulogy to a lost friend, its synthetic candy-ass tones as cheap as the drugs she took:

I know a girl from planet rock
who swears that she can stop?
I heard her scream without a sound
burn her father’s house to the ground
I told myself I wouldn’t waste a song
Because she’s gone.

This may the only album I’ve heard that tries to be as wry as possible.

THE FALLOUT: Unclassifiable, unexplainable and essentially unsellable, Godmusic attracted a fistful of great reviews and a thimbleful of sales. In a typical story for this site, Chocolate Genius recorded his next album for another label.

Godmusic is out of print but used copies can be found at Amazon, and you can hear tracks right here:

Starting with out-of-sync warbling and ending with a nod to Truman Capote, Godmusic is refreshingly intelligent, humorous and oddball.

NEXT WEEK: Stevie Wonder scores a little plant documentary and, oh it backfires.

Divine Styler: Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light (1992)


Are you ready for the love of Allah, ambience and acid?

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: What was Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate smoking in 1992? Ice started singing with the hardcore punkish Body Count, Everlast turned into the Irish Cypress Hill with House of Pain, and Divine Styler fell into the abyss with the scary-ass freakshow of Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light.

Ever hear a song and think “This is just wrong. Songs aren’t supposed to go like that. Is something in my ear?” This is a whole album of those songs, each one more disturbing and psychically damaged than the last one.

Dropping the strict hip-hop of his previous album, 1989’s Word Power, Spiral delves into psychedelic speed metal, trip-hop, Elizabethan acoustic fingerpicking and jam-band blues rock while unveiling fiendishly intricate rhymes about his Muslim faith and psychedelic drugs. What he doesn’t do exactly is rap, although every other method of vocalizing is present and accounted for.

In “Am I An Epigram for Life” he asks himself muffled metaphysical questions while swirling down the drain of keyboard bloops. The bloops return in “Touch” where he whispers his beat poetry up against a melting CasioTone preset beat, which then decays into a funk march.

It’s unsettling to listen to “Love, Lies and Lifetime Cries” as it consists mostly of him pleading “They won’t let me in!” while he frantically knocks on a closed door. I wouldn’t open it either; he doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to let in the house. But his paranoid ranting over sickly oozing keyboards is highly intriguing.

“Grey Matter” was the radio single, as if wooden flute techno jazz was going to get him spot on “Yo! MTV Raps”. His eloquence is outstanding as it is avant-garde, as he goes way out onto the microledge with “Heaven Don’t Want Me And Hell’s Afraid I’ll Take Over. He pontificates, seduces and conjoles you with his oratory skills, one step from outright screaming. He saves that for “Mystic Sheep Drink Electric Tea” a buzzy slab of industrial grindcore.

Divine Styler kicks it super-old school, kinda, with the drums-and-space of “Euphoric Rangers” then stays in outer space with “Aura” where he raps over the sounds of a malfunctioning alien probe ship.

THE FALLOUT: Divine Styler impressively wrote, produced, arranged and played most of the instruments on Spiral, but his fearlessness caught hip-hop heads completely off-guard and it bombed. Divine Styler lost his production deal, his record label and eventually his freedom (if not also his tether to the material world).

Spiral is out of print but might be available from Amazon. You can also listen to tracks below:

Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light is unabashedly psychotic but worth the effort of a complete listen.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: What ever happened to Neneh Cherry?