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DJ Spooky 

Drums of Death (Thirsty Ear)

Because he's taken hip-hop so far into the realm of the abstract and the avant-garde, some might assume that Paul Miller prefers musique concrete to sweaty, hard-hitting beats. The first blast of Drums of Death should correct that impression. This collaboration between Spooky and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo is about as gritty as cutting and pasting gets. And if you didn't realize that the latter could bring the funk as well as the noise, "Quantum Cyborg Drum Machine" and "Incipit Zarathustra" prove that Lombardo had more in common with old Def Jam labelmates like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys than most people realized.

Vintage Def Jam, in fact, is a major touchstone here, as Spooky even grapples with the ghost of Public Enemy on a quartet of covers. Despite appropriately raw textures from Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers and the presence of Chuck D himself, it's tough to beat the Bomb Squad at its own game. Where Drums of Death gets exciting, however, is on the new channeling of that same rebel-without-a-pause spirit. The crunching old-school instrumentals that make up the majority of the disc illuminate a fascinating alternate reality -- one in which Rick Rubin stayed at Def Jam. Here's what it might have sounded like. Play it loud.

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