It's easy to have a crush on Kid Loco. As a French producer and remixer working mostly from a warm palette of not-your-usual samples (flutes, piano twinkles, acoustic guitars, strings, horns), he inspires intimate attachments with sonic love letters that gush bedroom romanticism. His gorgeous 1998 import-only album, A Grande Love Story, went down like a Euro-Harlequin novel bashfully shot as bachelor-pad porn. Unfortunately overshadowed by the stateside blowup of his fellow Parisian retro-aesthetes Air, Grande tried to be both stylishly handsome and stylishly blunted, an album by a fey and delicate electro dandy who couldn't get over the adolescent power of aural swank and chronic creativity.
Prelude to a Grande Love Story is a clever epilogue to its predecessor (which Atlantic couldn't release because of sample legalities) and is mostly the Kid being remixed by folks as disparate as Jim O'Rourke and St. Etienne, who both fiddle with the Pastels' Katrina Mitchell's whispered guest spot on "Love Me Sweet" (O'Rourke's track rides an especially ingenious line between the lush and the dissonant). The whole affair may be an appropriately beat-chiseled and mood-altered tour of new-school Paris club couture locking horns with indie guitar-rock and tuneful avant-gardism, but nothing holds up to A Grande Love Story's seamless epic emotionalism. The best cuts on Prelude are the ones that haven't been messed with: "She's My Lover"'s breathy seductions and the piano-slurred beat-waltz of "Sister Curare."
Fact is, Kid Loco is better being the remixer than the remixed. Jesus Life for Children Under 12 Inches -- a collection of his best makeover work now out via French import and due domestically in October -- is compiled proof that meddling with other people's music can sustain itself as art. His treatments of everyone from the Pastels to Talvin Singh are so enjoyable that you don't care what the originals ever sounded like. In remix mode, Kid Loco is as recognizable as they come, and each cut feels not like some tossed-off bonus-track favor for a friend but like a carefully chosen addition to his own recombinative craft. No matter if it's Cornu's ecstatic howls or Mogwai's crawling jet-engine whirs, he always shows up giving hugs of chunky, downtempo beats and arrangements that never sacrifice melodic prettiness for sequence trickery. We should all be so lucky.
ELEANOR HOVDA Ariadne Music (ooDiscs)
This American composer has had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, the California EAR Unit and other top contemporary ensembles. She has been composer-in-residence at Princeton and Yale, been celebrated in magazines like Fanfare. Yet her name remains unfamiliar, even to many new-music cognoscenti. Ariadne Music may not correct that, but it is the most textured, vibrantly colored and electrifying new-music collection I have heard this year.
All five pieces here are variations on a conceptual theme, though each has distinctive hollows and striations. In "Onyx," strings buzz and hum as they pile on top of each other. The sound has startling weight and density, and is streaked with shards of flute-sound that light up individual overtones like lightning in thunder clouds. "Song in High Grasses" could pass, at first, for program music, with the reeds and strings creating an evocative vision of undulating green fields and insects and wind. But then a hair-raising yodel-wail rises out of the backdrop, and all at once the piece becomes not a picture of grass but a meditation on it, subtle and waving and eerie.
Like so much recent Western new music, Hovda's work contains neither melody nor melodic development. But it is never static, and the title composition in particular positively seethes with event. The unpredictability of those events keeps the pieces fresh, but the stunning streaks of color in the underlying stillness provide Ariadne Music with its profound and disquieting depths. (Glen Hirshberg)
ROBERT REIGLE The Marriage of Heaven and Earth (Acoustic Levitation) SMEGMA 19731998 Vol. I (Pigface)
Robert Reigle's intellectualism and Smegma's anti'lectualism hit some of the same crossroads from different directions. Reigle might indulge in the occasional "text collage"; Smegma's got some "poetry." One is influenced by the Residents' Eskimo, the other by the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." Both dig Albert Ayler. Their individual improvisational wildernesses are documented on these two retrospectives covering 14 years (Reigle) and 25 years (Smegma). You might like both. I do.
The sounds that resonate strongest in Reigle's modern head are drones and high-pitched tone clusters, which you get a load of in opening and concluding versions of "The Marriage of Heaven and Earth." While the long massed sax overtones might at first remind you of brake cylinders past repair, you'll soon feel their insistent beauty, and maybe even get a sick jones to hear only that facet of the arrangement. And you can: Aware that linear soloing can distract, Reigle gives you the option, on the 1982 version, of blending or omitting his sax improvs with your balance control. (You'll sample his amazing vocabulary of reed effects on "Goodnight," anyway.) On the other hand, the musicians he collected to perform the word & music piece "Ants Eating Through Brick," the terpsichorean score "A Dance Period" and his texture-centered take on Ayler's episodic "Bells" focus a collective mind on the macrocosm. Grouped triangles and bells simulate drones; a single forceful bass note or strangled guitar chord arrives decisively. If the conductor's directions were something like "Don't play anything till you're sure it will be right," they were followed just about flawlessly.