Falling for New Season of Sounds


The music never stops. We may fall behind during the summer months or retreat from the world during the High Holidays, but it's futile to try to pick up where we left off. You'll never catch up, so it's best just to dive right back into the sound of now.

The latest addition to my stack of party-starters is "Exotic on the Speaker," the U.S. debut from Tel Aviv D.J. crew Soulico, out this week on JDub Records.

Take four D.J.'s with a deep knowledge of club trends, the right credentials and industry connections. The result: 43 minutes of hip-hop, alt-rock and electro-pop that's varied enough to keep you on your toes and energetic enough to keep you on your feet.

First, meet the music-makers.

There's music journalist Eyal Rob, songwriters/producers Ido Saar and Ronen Sabbo, and film sound designer Michael Emmeth. Together, they're known as D.J. Rob; D.J. Wido; D.J. Sabbo; and D.J. Shimmy Sonic; and they're secure enough in their skills to share the spotlight with a solid assortment of guest vocalists.

Their ambition announces itself right off the bat, with the dramatic "El Nur," which brings in masculine and feminine voices, organic and highly processed textures; American, European, Hebrew and Arabic accents. Every part retains its identity, while combining into something fresh and singular.

Banging beats and a folky melody share space on "Exotic on the Speaker," but the star of the moment is teen rapper Rye Rye, who studied under M.I.A. — 2005's "It" girl and one of Time magazine's picks this year for the world's 100 most influential people.

The Baltimore-based Rye Rye brings new life to the club-chick scenario, and her performance is proof that she shouldn't let her baby (also due this month) get in the way of her career.

Soulico's bubbly electro is versatile, pairing equally well with Tel Aviv diva Onili's coos on "Come Back" and Del the Funky Homosapien's rap on the importance of education on "Politrix."

Of course, such an eclectic mix means that not every listener will like every song.

"Queen of Hearts" and "Bo Be Easy" may draw dance-hall denizens, but they won't win over those who don't have a soft spot for reggae. The retro "Avood MeAhava" may get Chic fans in the mood, but ears raised on more modern fare will shun the thin disco tricks.

Then, "Darboukatron" can bring everyone back together.

By sidelining the singers for 90 seconds and putting Soulico's formidable beats up front, it's like a funky sorbet that cleanses the palate for the sonic flavors yet to come.

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And in case you slept through the summer, here are three musical highlights:

· "Laughing With," by Regina Spektor. "No one laughs at God in a hospital/No one laughs at God in a war/no one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor." So begins the best song on pianist Spektor's fifth album, "far."

She goes on to list several other such scenarios, each more serious than the next. But the kicker comes in the chorus, and like every good joke, it's clever no matter how many times you hear it. Also, like every great joke, you have to hear it for yourself.

· "Not a Political Song," by Holmes. "How could you tell me that you did all you could?/How could you say you've done the things that you should?" sings pianist Roy Shakked. "If ever there was a reason not to boast or be smug/Wipe that pitiful smirk off your mug."

Fans of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson should like Holmes mastermind Shakked, a sabra who now calls Los Angeles home. He's made a living as a waiter, a session musician and a jazz producer, but his own songs have been popping up in movies, commercials and television shows.

· "Shomer Salaam," by Eprhyme. "Not by might and not by our power/But by spirit alone shall we become free," Eden Pearlstein raps. Now this is a political song. Brooklyn-based Pearlstein, who goes by the name Eprhyme (pronounced "E-Prime"), envisions a more just and peaceful world in the rhymes on "Waywordwonderwill."


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