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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

Prodigy Leader Makes Connection

*** LIAM HOWLETT "Prodigy Presents the Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One"; XL/Beggars Banquet

April 04, 1999|ROBERT HILBURN

As the mastermind behind Prodigy, Howlett favors provocation and assault over subtlety and soothing ambience in the dance music scene, so it's no surprise that this invigorating salute to the British studio marvel's favorite moments on record leans toward the harder edges of dance, rock and especially hip-hop.

In "Dirtchamber Sessions" (due in stores Tuesday), Howlett weaves samples of more than four dozen recordings into eight collages, complete with all the scratching and fades (in and out) that you'd expect from a premier deejay.

Without violating the integrity of the original recordings by such varied artists as Digital Underground, Barry White, Public Enemy, the Sex Pistols and the Prodigy's rival the Chemical Brothers, Howlett finds ways to assert his own personality, including thumbing his nose at those who found Prodigy's song "Smack My Bitch Up" offensive. The opening collage features a sample of the title line, which appeared in Ultramagnetic MC's 1988 recording "Give the Drummer Some."

Mainly, however, Howlett's imagination is devoted to attacking the sensibilities of those who feel music should remain within narrow boundaries--and his attempt to break down those barriers is a welcome one. "Dirtchamber" may be too pop-conscious for dance purists, but adventurous pop-rock fans will probably find it a delight.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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