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By Michael Henningsen

OCTOBER 27, 1997: 

Alibi Rating Scale:
Like a fantasy tag-team sponge bath courtesy of:
!!!!!= David Copperfield and Claudia Schiffer.
!!!!= David Bowie and Iman.
!!!= Kathy Bates and Kathy Bates.
!!= Zigfried and Roy.
!= Jim and Tammy Faye.

Fluke

Risotto (Astralwerks)

London-based techno maestros Fluke have come a long way since "Thumper," their 1989 debut single recorded in the same flat that founding members Jon Fugler, Mike Tournier and Mike Bryant had shared since 1986 and distributed and promoted in true DIY fashion. As acid house established itself firmly by the end of the 1980s, Fluke were one of many bands to raise the dance flag, but one of the few to blaze their own trail and maintain artistic integrity--mainly due to their extreme separatism and resistance to critical musings, dance charts and record sales data. They don't believe their own hype and, in taking such a stance, are able to stay a step ahead of the game.

By 1993, Fluke had released several singles and two full lengths and were inundated with invitations to remix everything from New Order's "Spooky" to Bjork's "Big Time Sensuality," the latter of which Bjork liked so much she replaced her original version with Fluke's on her first solo release, Debut. It was the band's third album, OTO, however, that garnered them international attention. The album's first single, "Bullet," entered the U.K. dance charts at number 23 and received rave critical reviews.

Presently, Fluke have added fearsome frontwoman Rachel to their arsenal, finished festival tours with David Bowie and Prodigy, remixed the Smashing Pumpkins' "The End is the Beginning is the End" and released Risotto, their latest record. While certainly not a departure from the techno realm, Risotto does represent a detour from the 140 bpm pulse of their acid house roots. The emphasis here is on funk, sweeping old school electro and vocal incantations that sound off more like spells than they do lyrics. So vast are the soundscapes that Fluke create on Risotto that being submersed in the music is like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night. That's not to say that moments of hyper-dance and cyber-attack don't invade--they do--but Risotto is as much about ambiance and the complete listening experience as it is about sweaty, all-night raves and club nights with the letters N-R-G attached to their name. Risotto is its own best drug and the side effects are even better. !!!!


Various Artists

The Best of New Age: Volumes 4-6 (Priority)

What the hell? Priority Records--home to N.W.A. since 1988, not to mention Easy E's solo records after the fact--has, believe it or not, released six volumes of new age music in the past three years. Speculation on the matter is boundless, but the fact remains: Volumes 4, 5 and 6 have just come out and there's nothing funny about it. I don't hate new age music. At least not all of it. There's some stuff within the genre that's downright pioneering. Patrick O'Hearn, for instance, who's found on Volume 5 of this series, makes music that has long fascinated and intrigued me. Having played bass with Frank Zappa and, later, Missing Persons, O'Hearn has earned the right to freak out musically and go his own way. On the other hand, the inclusion of the terminally anglo John Tesh is indicative of just how thoughtless this collection really is. Not that Tesh or people like him are necessarily without talent--they're not--but coupling them with legitimate new age electronicists and experimentalists only serves to cheapen the genre.

There's a whole lot of music here--some 39 tracks--but the collection is so haphazardly and thoughtlessly thrown together that none of the music shines through, and there is a decided lack of natural flow. Such a bold venture as this--three CDs intended to represent a cross-section of the new age genre--is better left to producers and compilationists who have a feel for the respective music. The execs at Priority who masterminded this release have a bit to learn about integrity and the reverent logic inherent to sticking to one's own game. !

Next Week: The Eyeliners and Fat Boy Slim.


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