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Weekly Alibi Tiny Tunes

By Michael Henningsen

Alibi Value Scale Formula:
Total minutes of good music @ 50¢/minute minus total minutes of bad music @ 25 ¢/minute = Value

Willie and Lobo Caliente (Mesa)
Good Minutes: 47:15 ($23.58)
Blah Minutes: 5:24 (no cash value)
Bad Minutes: 0:46 ($.12)
Actual Retail Price: $14.97
Value: $23.46

Over the course of their past three albums (this latest one included), violinist Willie Royal and his musical partner, guitarist Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink, have hacked away--with progressive fervor and intent--at the idea that anything other than traditional flamenco music must be "flamenco lite." If that notion were true, by the way, modern master Paco de Lucia would be considered a much farther cry from, say, Sabicas, than he really is. Willie and Lobo may not cast themselves or their music among the traditionalists of the genre, but they echo the Gypsy, Spanish and other masters in such a way as to meld tradition and the modern with spectacular effect.

On Caliente, the duo create their most moving work to date, relying more on their collective consciousness to provide shifts in mood and timbre than they do on gadgetry and formulaic songwriting. The music one hears on this record, hence, is of a much higher purity than some modern flamenco. Yet Caliente can not be considered simply a flamenco record through and through. There are plenty of other influences that come into play. The album's first two cuts, "Desert Sun" and "Napali," make remarkable use of ambient sounds and rhythmic loops to lay the groundwork for Roybal's passionate violin while traditional flamenco breathes life into "El Anclote," "Puerto Vallarta Squeeze" and "Lunada."

Fink's guitar sound is a relaxing, settled one, his playing that of a musician seasoned in the wisdom of many genres and steeped in broad rhythmic knowledge. Roybal, whose violin alone carries much of the record's melody, has, with this album, taken a more major role. He plays with an admirable balance between restraint and virtuosity, allowing the individual composition to dictate his parts.

With keen ears and a collective vision for their music, Willie and Lobo continue to explore and grow within the confines they alternately set and reconstruct for themselves. And with that flexible framework, the two are able to stretch the imaginations of those who listen--not necessarily as staunch critics of traditional flamenco, but as listeners whose tastes are as vast and mysterious as the Painted Desert.

Fear Factory Remanufacture (Roadrunner)

Good Minutes: 44:25 ($22.13)
Blah Minutes: 11:18 (no cash value)
Bad Minutes: 9:11 ($2.28)
Actual Retail Price: $13.97
Value: $19.85

With a career built upon blurring the lines--now nearly nonexistent in many cases--between grind core and industrial, it's really no wonder that Fear Factory have turned their attention to a different form of line blurring on their latest effort: the fine strand that separates the remix from the re-creation. Remanufacture, as you might have guessed, is a 13-song collection of past Fear Factory songs deconstructed, reworked, stripped down, shuffled, looped, twisted and forged into new songs with the occasional hint of whence they came. When the whole idea works, that is. Some songs are simply better in their original state. And while Fear Factory enlisted the aid of international DJs--among them DJ Dano, Junkie XL and Kingsize--for this bold project, their ultimate goal was an impossible one.

In the few cases where the remixes don't live up to their predecessors ("National Panel Beating," formerly "Body Hammer," for instance), the rehashing seems pointless. But on the other hand, there are more than a few songs that simply kick ass. The album's title track, a brilliantly reworked version of "Demanufacture" (the title track on Fear Factory's powerful previous release), along with new versions of "New Breed" and "Replica" are truly fine examples of technology as a positive tool.

The production is impeccable and the various contributions by renowned DJs and mixologists make Remanufacture, for the most part, a futuristic, intelligent glimpse of the eventual musical union of man and machine. And that makes being forced to enter the cyber age somewhat more comforting and a whole lot more exciting.

--Michael Henningsen







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