Hoodlum Priest

Beneath the Pavement

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Released only in a limited edition of 1,200, Beneath the Pavement is a fierce, creative, and thrilling slice of U.K. instrumental electronic music, but one that values the spoken word in its own way. Rather than rapping himself or using guest performers, Thompson splices in pointed samples of speeches from rallies and film dialogue to make his points, mixing wry irony with darkly critical stabs at the establishment as broadly defined. Thompson's not making philosophy, admittedly, but that's not the point -- the attacks on cops, a culture of violence, and more and the concurrent need to rise up against idiocy work here on the immediate level as well as lingering a bit. His musical material can be as warmly beautiful and mysterious as the contemporaneous Bristol trip-hop explosion -- check the swooping, haunting strings on both versions of "Rev." -- but there's an upfront energy and anger that make the material more than just, say, head-nodding stuff for stoners. "Capital of Pain," with its coruscating guitar samples and horror-movie theatrics, is almost cartoonishly metal but all the better for being wound up so tightly. Where things are more stripped down, as on the obsessive funk of "Radio K.I.L.L.," everything is suffused with threat, the basslines ominous and burring, the guitar tweaked and nervous. His ear for the combination of word and music results in many fine moments -- for instance, the cold, electronically distorted voice introducing "Semtex Revolution" on a bed of organ before the beats brusquely kick in, leading to a high-speed combination of noise. The "Roxy Mix" of "Rev.," meanwhile, makes the track a touch more conventionally dancefloor friendly without being any less fierce, thanks to his use of the core vocal samples from the earlier take. No points for "The Hammer Speaks" though, being nothing more than a motorcycle engine revving up and down.

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