"From Filthy Tongue
of Gods and Griots"
Death-metal goes to art-rock school on Isis's "Oceanic," and the results are actually quite listenable -- except when it sounds too much like death-metal. The change could be perplexing for the Boston quintet's original fan base, since Isis previously played lumbering hard rock with the customary slit-throat death-gargle vocals. On "Oceanic" songs like "From Sinking," it still does, but this album often lives up to its watery title with great washes of sound. The three gauzy tracks that feature guest vocalist Maria Christopher actually resemble Slowdive more than Black Sabbath. Instead of thudding and growling, songs like "Weight" bobble and then surge, suggesting a force of nature rather than mere human aggression.
Isis labelmate Dalek also has a sweeping sound, but one that's deployed in the service of words rather than atmospherics. One of the few contemporary hip-hop acts that doesn't settle for elementary loops and beats, this inventive New Jersey trio has outfitted its second album, "From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots," with dub grooves, Krautrock pulses, free-jazz bleats and the stray sitar riff. Not surprisingly, one of Dalek's principal concerns is the withering of hip-hop's experimental wing: "Yo, my culture, what happened?" asks "Speak Volumes." Elsewhere, Dalek engages in Tricky-like apocalyptics, matching dire prophecies to ominous soundscapes for such songs as "Black Smoke Rising" and "Forever Close My Eyes." The end of the world is probably not imminent, but just in case it is, this brilliantly unsettling album is exemplary sonic preparation.
-- Mark Jenkins
Both appearing Friday at the Black Cat with the Oxes. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Isis, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8105. To hear a free Sound Bite from Dalek, press 8106. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)