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M.I.A.
Kala
Interscope Records
www.miauk.com


The first thing you notice about M.I.A.'s Kala release is just how percussive this music is. Many of these songs sound like a female vocalist fronting a high school drum line. No kidding! Although there are plenty of electronic percussive elements, many of these beats also feel like the real thing. And some of the time, this CD reminds me of Paul Simon's Rhythm Of The Saints - only on speed.

The opening track, which trades unremitting percussion for - believer it or not - honest to goodness melody, is titled "Jimmy". With its faux strings and disco groove, it comes off like one of those Vietnamese dance tunes you hear coming out of Southeast Asian restaurants. But this tune is a conspicuous exception; most of these twelve songs offer machine-like beats-per-minute floggings, which nearly beat the listener into submission. M.I.A.'s unique sound combines her Sri Lankan upbringing with influences derived from her current London residence. She creates world music strongly saturated in hip-hop culture. One also hears electro, dancehall, and funk elements, too. The weakest cut is one called "Mango Pickle Down River", which drags like a grade school chant and features young kids rapping along.

New Buffalo's Sally Seltmann gave this music a unique compliment. She played it while moving house, and praised its rapid fire beats for making this laborious task go extremely fast. Then again, the same thing could probably be said about methamphetamines. But at least it doesn't come with the same empty depression after all's said and done. And I'll bet the DEA prefers hearing these tracks coming out of home stereos to smelling that urine stench of cooked meth.

-Dan MacIntosh


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