Every bit as insightful as it was funny, 2001's Cartoonopolis was a painstakingly sample-dense pastiche of soundbites, blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop, and anything else that crossed the graphics artist's mind. Xe La's latest -- released in conjunction with Cuyahoga County Community College's Recording Arts and Technology Program and enhanced with five live clips from a taping of the college's Crooked River Groove TV show -- is a sparse production by comparison. Backed by Nick Gaudette's upright bass, Xe La plays new and old songs, whistling, singing, and trying to figure out how, when he tries to reach for it, all the love around him vanishes like so much smoke. The bare numbers echo from one speaker to the next like they're bouncing around a near-empty bar, but it's easy to see why the people come back, week after week.
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