I don't mean this with any Ugly American, callous disrespect, but I defy you to listen to this alone in the dark.

Perhaps a bit more accessible is volume four, Tibetan and Bhutanese Instrumental and Folk Music, much of it played on a Dramnyen, somewhere in the aural neighborhood of a simplified sitar. Even track three, which consists solely of someone tuning the thing, is mesmerizing. This is obviously not for everybody, but those willing to actually sit down and give these ancient sounds their due will not be disappointed.--Peter Gilstrap

Ignition
Complete Services
(Dischord)

For all those Dischord fans out there, here's a collectible bit of D.C. hard-core, all the music Ignition released--a 27-cut value--in its nearly three years of existence. And for those keeping score, "this will be the one and only CD release by the defunkt band," according to the press release.

This is pretty much classic, angry stuff … la old Teen Idols and Minor Threat, punk rock that even your older siblings can enjoy. Though Ignition's vocalist is Alec Mackaye, brother of Fugazi's Ian, things are a lot more straightahead than the manic, passive-aggressive sound that has been the hallmark of Fugazi's music. Tunes such as "Throttle" and "Wrenching" are plenty snotty and visceral, and a cover of the Vibrators' "Keep It Clean" stands out. The package includes a swank booklet of fab pix and fave lyrics, too.--Peter Gilstrap Brand New Heavies

Brother Sister
(Delicious Vinyl)

Yesterday is now. The groove never dies, it just mutates into something better. That something better is Brother Sister, the brand-newest album by the Brand New Heavies.

Put away your mom's and pop's vinyl of the Temptations' Psychedelic Shack; you won't need it. Brother Sister is a soulful stroll down memory lane. While N'Dea Davenport's neosoul vocals are reminiscent of early Motown R&B swing, the Heavies boast an irresistible hip-hop/funk sound that is decidedly jazzy. This album will seduce any easy-listening buppie or yuppie into a retro-Seventies state of mind. Funk, soul, jazz, peace, love and joy, it's all relative. Check this one out.--Danielle Hollomon

Godspeed
Ride
(Atlantic)

Ride is one hell of a ride, a noisy, brash and brutal assault of alternative thrash, to be exact. One interesting riff flows effortlessly into another with boot-stomping, chest-bursting energy, dragging the listener, zombielike, into a dark world of pessimism, broken homes and addiction. Great guitar leads add the only light in this subterranean adventure.

Tunes such as "Abstract Life" and "Houston Street" spew forth with a cynical, high-viscosity rawness reminiscent of old Suicidal Tendencies, but with more sheer power and emotion. Vocals are throaty, somewhat punkish, always threatening to go flat, yet not without a touch of black humor and wicked indifference. Every song reveals a diagnosis of mindless despair and hopelessness--all supposedly based on singer-lyricist David Blanchet's life experience. On the subject of hate, for example, he justifies giving in to his darker emotions because he's a human being, and, after all, "It sure beats self-pity." Bummer, dude.--Ray Stern

Violent Femmes
New Times
(Elektra)

New Times sucks! No, you haven't turned to the Letters page by mistake. It's the Violent Femmes' new album that's drawing raspberries. Lately, the Femmes have come down with a dangerous strain of They Might Be Giants-itis. The symptoms include squandering perfectly good songs with "aren't we clever and kooky" arrangements and sticking in stuff like the Mission: Impossible theme for no apparent reason. It makes you wish the band would go back to its busking-on-the-street approach more often.

The truly fun moments here, like "Don't Start Me on the Liquor" and the biting commentary on last year's Earth Summit, "Jesus of Rio," make the sophomoric stuff seem even more disappointing. And it's really too bad the title track isn't up to snuff, either. Still, with choice lyrics like "Something is foul in the state/You can be sure that a writer is not far behind," the editorial staff may be singing this one in the halls for months to come.--Serene Dominic

Swell
41
(American Recordings)

Here is that rare recording that demands that you accept it on its own terms or not at all. Climb up the decrepit staircase on the cover (sound effects for such a trip are thoughtfully provided on the CD) and find yourself transported to the place where Swell hatches its unique blend of acoustic and distorted slide guitars, heavy rehearsal-room drums and almost conversational vocals. The closest you could come to describing this album is Dinosaur Jr. with Luna vocals, but even that's not accurate enough. Seek this strange recording out, and be on the ground floor of something really Swell.--Serene Dominic

Van Morrison
A Night in San Francisco
(Polydor)

The first thing they teach you in Rock Criticism 101 is that you've gotta love Van Morrison with all your heart and soul. And what's not to love? Sure, he may look like the dumpy guy in My Dinner With Andre these days, but he's been the only Sixties giant besides Neil Young who has arguably produced some of his best work in recent years.

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