Chanteuse-Juiced Drum 'N' Bass

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Jungle innovator Roni Size is trying it with Breakbeat Era, and such groups as Baxter and Everything But the Girl have, with varying degrees of success, married the warm spontaneity of vocals onto the nervous turns of drum ’n’ bass rhythm sections. But the trouble so far with most drum ’n’ bass records featuring divas is that the vocals often sound like they’re Scotch-taped onto the twisting rhythms; usually the chanteuse croon just can’t keep up with the skittish beat. U.K. duo Lamb were certainly as guilty as the next act on their last record, but at least programmer Lou Rhodes had the good sense to tell vocalist Andy Barlow to go get a bottled water when the jungle stuff got too nutty for her vocal accompaniment.

But with Fear of Fours, Barlow and Rhodes find that the common ground between diva and d ’n’ b involves taking the whole thing back a step into acoustic jazz territory. Arching stand-up bass lines wind their easy way over loose beats that take their own sweet time coming back around to the one in a nice flip to jungle’s usually surgically precise script. The jazzbo-riddims form smoky peaks for Barlow to wrap her warm, Marianne Faithfull-cackle around. The tracks have a looser, improvisational feel, coming into focus before your very ears; one even takes the breakbeat from EPMD’s "So Whatcha Sayin?" and turns it into a heavy-lidded torch song update of "Justify My Love."

It’s this kind of easy, likable crafting that makes Fear of Fours so quietly, humbly fantastic. Coming to a late night radio show near you.

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