West Nile Funk

The first Ex-Centric sound system disc was a vertiginous dub exploration of grooves fast and slow, prompting many to hail them as the second coming of African Head Charge. West Nile Funk has straightened out the sound so that it isn't quite so psychedelic, but has pumped up the break beats. Recorded with mostly live instrumentation, this album's success lies in the linear progression of each tune — songs get more exciting as they go along. Front-man Yossi Fine has stated that each song "contains a complete African song from start to finish, rather than small snippets," which creates an irresistible continuity within each track. This is music designed to sound hot rather than cool — the Ex-Centrics layer many elements together in an ever more furious fashion, rather than create a more minimalist house-based hybrid. As such, it ups the ante on producers like Osunlade and Joe Claussell (who is checked in the thank yous). The live percussion interplay is way up in the mix and tempos stay up except for the title track and "Alice and Voodooland," which unwisely slow the pace. XCS work better when they’re dancing harder. Fortunately, when the tempo goes up, the drums are the only things that matter. This is another advantage the Ex-Centrics retain over the Afro-Celts — there's nothing overly conceptual or precious, it's just banging. At just over 45 minutes — this album is a good length — it seems to get better as it goes along, and leaves you wanting more. (Independent)