KMFDM, “Tohuvabohu” (Metropolis). Formerly avant, KMFDM’s Teutonic disco stomp now sounds trés retro -- but Sascha Konietzko ain’t about to exchange his jackboots for carpet slippers. Instead, Der Programführer acknowledges his throwback status with a deadpan wink: stealing a synth tag from Gary Numan, encouraging voxpard Lucia Cifarelli to essay a coy Madonna imitation, strewing antiquated sequencer burbles all over the battlefield. “Tohuvabohu” does showcase untypical twists: The de rigueur reggae undercurrents of “I Am What I Am” expand into dark balladry; “Saft und Kraft” blazes into lockstep thrash metal; after a swelling classical intro, “Bumaye” graces its creepy Arabic mood with some real singing from Cifarelli. Fans who always want more of KMFDM’s classic four-on-the-floor sloganeering, though, will find examples in the big funk of “Superpower” and the yelping vocal hook of “Looking for Strange,” a tune that’ll go down in the greatest-hits archive. (Also not half bad: the more textured and rhythmically varied “Dirty Bomb” album by KGC, a project of Konietzko, Cifarelli and Dean Garcia, available at kmfdmstore.com.)
Praxis, “Tennessee 2004” (ROIR). This shit is out of control: Buckethead on guitar, Bill Laswell on bass, Brain on drums and (yo) Bernie Worrell on keyboards, breaking orbit for afterburner improvisations. Take Cream’s jam template and make it way heavier. Take early-‘70s electric Miles and make it even more extreme. Take reggae and give it acid instead of ganja. There’s even a doomed-romance ballad, “Bent Light,” which manages to be both radical and gorgeous despite the image one inevitably conjures of a dude playing a heartfelt “I love you” with a KFC container crammed on his skull. These bastards are just having a blast, and the Bonnaroo festival audience is eating it up. The only slowdowns are an unexceptional drum solo and a somewhat thin stab at “Machine Gun” -- musicians like these should’ve known better than to crowd Hendrix’s turf. But overall, like -- wow.
Kush Arora, “From Brooklyn to SF” (Kusharora.com). This time, mixmaster Kush decided to lay most of his soundbags on the backs of dancehall-type reggae growlers (Juakali, Zulu, Blacksmith, et al.) rather than let his bhangrified dubsmanship speak for itself. This could be a smart crossover move, but Kush is such a bumpy, original abstractionist that it seems a shame to bury him in brag. However, he cranks up three real pingy, pro-active dubs here: The synth bass riff of “Surf’s Up” is like being massaged with a monster-truck innertube; “Surya Dub” is more traditional, with swelling whooshes and nice action at the edges of the stereo field; and even the Upsetter, Lee Perry, would acknowledge the Pepto-Bismol riddims of “Boss Street Dub.” As if reading my mind, Kush has released all three on a colored-vinyl 45rpm maxi-single. And as we all know, the all-enveloping bath that pours from PVC grooves is the way Jah intended dub to be absorbed.
Dub Trio, “Cool Out and Coexist” (ROIR). Hard to believe music this tweaked-out is live. Feedback, effects, controlled reverb, drop-outs, sudden changes -- all done seamlessly on the fly, with the agility of a chipmunk and the heft of a hypoglycemic rhinoceros. It’s plain from their fitful thrash excursions that bassist Stu Brooks, guitarist DP Holmes and drummer Joe Tomino savor their Slayer as well as their Spear -- well, we all cultivate the same weed, mon. But what’s really amazing is the level of consistency they achieve; you won’t want to take this off till the whole spliff is ash.
“Essential Dub” (ROIR). I wasn’t gonna review this, cuz compilations tend to lack the elevational continuum that can build when you sink at leisure into a single dubster’s aesthetic. But after putting it on, I just couldn’t argue with the way it plays as an album, despite the wide range of practitioners: Oku Onudra, Ras Michael, Dub Trio, Bush Chemists, Bad Brains, Twilight Circus, Bill Laswell, Dr. Israel, Niney, Alpha & Omega and more. It may be a sampler disc, but whoever selected and sequenced the tracks oughta get a raise.