Expose: Nothing to show for its experimentation

January 01, 1993|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

EXPOSE

Expose (Arista 18577)

What does a dance pop act do when the groove it rode in on becomes old hat? It looks for a new sound to exploit, what else? At least, that's what Expose attempts with "Expose," an album that finds the threesome trying everything from the techno-tinged stomp of "I Specialize in Love" to some Wilson Philips-ish harmonizing on "In Walked Love." To its credit, the trio has no trouble living up to the material's technical demands, demonstrating a competence its previous output barely hinted at. But it never quite seems convincing when working with the new stuff. So apart from an occasional Miami-style throwback like "I Wish the Phone Would Ring," this "Expose" reveals nothing.

FIXED

Nine Inch Nails (TVT/Interscope EP)

With "Broken," Nine Inch Nails pushed the envelope of industrial rock, splattering the walls with tortured vocals, aggressively industrial synths and shards of screaming, metallic guitar. Yet as ferocious as it sounded, the best songs pulled at the listener with the itchy, adrenalized urgency of dance music. Perhaps that's why NIN has followed "Broken" with "Fixed," a remix EP that remakes several "Broken" songs as club fare -- assuming, that is, the clubs in question offer more slamming than dancing. Between Trent Reznor's relentless rethink of "Happiness in Slavery" and Coil's shimmering, spacey take on "Gave Up," the EP definitely has its accessible side, but the grating, white-noise drone of "Screaming Slave" will likely try the patience of all but the most faithful fans.

TWILIGHT MOTEL

Alison Brown (Vanguard 79465)

AAlthough bluegrass presented itself as a hillbilly throwback, the early greats always managed to work in a few jazz licks among the more traditional lines. And today's brightest players are no different. Just listen to the way Alison Brown's "Twilight Motel" touches on everything from slippery samba rhythms to flashy Scruggs-style picking. Granted, it helps that her playmates include bluegrass regulars like Stuart Duncan, jazzers like Gary Brown and new acoustic stylists like Mike Marshall, players who can brighten almost any session. But what ultimately carries the album is Brown's own boundless imagination and technical dexterity, a combination that not only enables her to play anything, but ensures that anything she plays is worth hearing.

RAGAS AND SAGAS

Jan Garbarek (ECM 1442)

Quick -- what does the music of Norway and Pakistan have in common? I don't know either, but there must be something. How else could saxophonist Jan Garbarek have packed "Ragas and Sagas" with such richly rewarding performances? Featuring Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, a small group of Pakistani musicians and, on "Saga," Senegalese drummer Manu Katche, the playing draws on a wealth of traditions, from the sacred improvisation of Qawwali singing to the secular extrapolations of jazz. Yet as exotic as the components might seem, the music that emerges from this clash of cultures is hauntingly beautiful and immediately engaging -- even if neither ragas nor sagas are among your usual listening fare.

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