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Dissent 

Bleeding Together

Wednesday, Jan 8 2003
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In its seven years of existence, Mission-based label/studio Wide Hive has mainly applied its back-to-basics recording philosophy to jazz-funkateers (guitarist Calvin Keys and ex-Tower of Power drummer Ron E. Beck) and band-turntablist hybrids (the debut releases by DJ Zeph and VU). Now, Hive's Gregory Howe heads into altogether new territory with Bleeding Together, the second album by the loose collective of musicians known as Dissent. Mixing downtempo electronica, world music, and the label's trademark organic-jazz vibe might not qualify as groundbreaking, but Bleeding Together strikes a tasteful balance between chilled-out vocal tunes and sampledelic instrumental detours.

For Dissent's sophomore effort, Howe pulled together players from other Wide Hive projects -- the aforementioned Keys, Crown City Rockers pianist Kat Ouano, and VU bassist Matt Montgomery -- in addition to several new collaborators. Singer Nathalie Sanchez, whose honey-sweet vocals take the spotlight for nearly half the tunes, is the pick of the newbies. Whether riding the syncopated samba rhythm of "Flying High" or grooving in the synth and piano velvet of "Soul Cycling," Sanchez imbues the songs with a sunny, sultry quality that stands apart from the world-weary delivery of many a downtempo chanteuse.

As the project's producer and principal songwriter, Howe couches the vocal tracks in lush, layered arrangements, recalling the mellower output of such U.K. imprints as Ninja Tune and Mo' Wax. "Dissent 2" finds Ouano's warm Fender Rhodes laying a foundation for Tim Hyland's lithe flute lines and Lila Sklar's hypnotic violin.

The instrumental tunes of the collection drift into more adventurous sounds. "Continental Divide" weaves Indian and Middle Eastern vocal samples over a dubby bass line and the deftly plucked strings of an African harp, sounding like an outtake from one of Bill Laswell's genre-busting sessions. "Haunted Head" and "Sound Painting" build disjointed grooves around oddball dialogue from obscure albums and films, giving both tracks a unique cut-and-paste flavor. Howe's love for jazz-funk resurfaces on "Freaky Feet," pitting Hammond B-3 and funky clavinet against a kinetic string section for a lively chase-scene theme. Though a couple of ambient pieces sound more like meandering interludes than actual songs, and Howe's lyrics veer dangerously close to platitude at times ("Shine" being the main culprit), Bleeding Together takes an intriguing trip through the well-traveled intersection of world music and electronica.

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Dave Pehling

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