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Record Rack

*** 1/2 Talvin Singh, "O.K.," Island.

** Asian Dub Foundation, "Rafi's Revenge," London.

November 14, 1998|ERNESTO LECHNER

Two extremely different records explore the art of sound collage, with disparate results. The most appealing element in both is the in-your-face presence of Indian music, whose breathy spirituality adds warmth to even the most decadent-sounding, artificially produced beat.

You could call Talvin Singh a professional outsider. An Asian living in London who's been rejected by Indians and British alike, he's turned this isolation into a liberating musical experience.

In the world of "O.K.," a zillion beats per minute float in an ethereal sea of tablas, flutes and occasional chanting. On the superlative "Traveler," for instance, a soaring classical string section appears after eight minutes of cool, ambient atmospherics. The continual transitions between techno and antiquity can make you feel as if you are flying on an ancient hot-air balloon at the speed of light.

The militant members of the Asian Dub Foundation, on the other hand, would do well to expand their horizons. Although the premise of "Rafi's Revenge" is a commendable one--a condemnation of political injustice around the world--the lack of subtlety in MC Master D's rapping damages even the most earnest of intentions.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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