La Bete Nom De Plume

Edmonton's Little Whore Records has been putting out all kinds of beat- and rhyme-heavy insanity over 40 releases. This is one of their most appealing. La Bete is recognizably a jazz band, with the enigmatic Maigan Vandergiessen as vocalist. She's not trying to pull off a jazz diva persona ― this music is far too abstract to reinforce any temptation to do so. However, these aren't formless, longwinded jams ― everything is in the two- to three-minute range with a strong beat poetry vibe. It's buffed-up electronically with a strong hip-hop orientation provided by producer Madame Wang. Sampled dialogue from old movies adds to the noir-ish resonance, but La Bete is unpretentious about what they're trying to do, which turns out to be a great virtue. Despite the short length of the songs, the structures are strikingly different and all 12 tracks add up to an effective suite. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the records Thirsty Ear was putting out ten years ago, but without a self-conscious avant-jazz orientation and with the hip-hop vocabulary far better developed. The lead vocals are ultimately not all that strong technically, but they are compelling from a storytelling point of view. (Little Whore)