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*** El Gran Silencio, "Libres y Locos," Ark 21.


When Mexican rappers Control Machete and Molotov released their debut albums a couple of years ago, just the fact that they could embrace the U.S.-born style with authority and imagination was reason enough to celebrate.

Now Monterrey's El Gran Silencio picks up where those acts left off, taking the burgeoning subgenre of rap en espanol to a new level with a sound that is riskier and more authentically Latin American.

With a full-time accordionist and an exhaustive knowledge of the Mexican vernacular, the band endows "Libres y Locos" (Free and Crazy) with ranchera poignancy. The showy "El Mitote," in which myriad popular phrases are intertwined with scratching and fat bass lines, creates an edgy juxtaposition and is one of the album's most original moments.

But the quintet is aware of more than cumbias and corridos. Songwriting brothers Cano and Tony Hernandez go far beyond the cliches of the genre with wise musings on life, energetic beats and an infectious sense of humor that make El Gran Silencio the rap en espanol equivalent of De la Soul.

*** David Sylvian, "Dead Bees on a Cake," Virgin.

The 1999 version of the Englishman's avant-garde pop is darker in nature than 1987's gorgeous "Secrets of the Beehive." It's as if the singer were watching the world and its painful contradictions in slow-motion. There's the occasional hummable bit (the sinuous "God Man" and the Asian-flavored "Krishna Blue"), but the bulk of this highly introspective album is made up of abstract ballads that rely heavily on texture and gentle sonic distortion.

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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