Ming & FS: The Human Condition

Christine Hsieh

Ming & Fs

The Human Condition

Label: Om
US Release Date: 2001-09-04

Truly an album for those who appreciate eclectic sound-mashing, Ming & FS's The Human Condition is an enjoyable romp through junkyard territory. And in Ming & FS terms, "junkyard" refers to an unexpected fusion of drum 'n' bass, trip hop, hip-hop, and breakbeat, not cast-off artifacts of urban living. Their latest long-player continues where their 1999 debut, Hell's Kitchen, left off, updating their hip-hop-meets-jungle sound with a smattering of two-step and glitchy noise. The boys are at it again, and they've created an entertaining, party-rocking interpretation of the latest in cutting edge dance music.

From the start, it's clear that this is not one of those dance-by-numbers albums. The opening Hebrew intonations ("Shalom", spoken by Hell's Kitchen guest artist Omri) quickly give way to clattering breaks, mechanized didgeridoos, sub-bass rumbling, and plenty of battle-worthy scratching. Dubbed "Intro to Life", this track is a hearty, solid introduction to the duo's cut-and-paste aesthetic. There's no stopping these guys as they move easily from the stripped-down breaks of "Freak" to scratchy loungecore on "The Human Condition", catching the listener's attention and piquing interest about what will happen next.

At times, however, sonic mismatches make for some rather miserable cuts. For example, "High Pursuit" suffers almost unbearably from a notable lack of direction. A distorted voice laments pitifully over a sparse, glitchy background of pops and clicks, lending a weirdly lopsided feel to the track. "Proof Positive" is also a bit confusing, utilizing a catchy, funk-driven bassline but never really finding any footing for the duration of the song.

Thankfully, these flaws are few and far between, with a bevy of strong tracks to compensate for the weak points. The stuttered, punch-drunk beats of "Momer" work splendidly with a rollicking bass guitar and heady synth slices, and a hollow woodblock rounds out the proceedings quite nicely. "Head Case" is an appealingly dark, searing jungle exercise, throwing out double-time rhythms and electronic squelches before calming down slightly with a warm, rolling bass guitar line. Fans of house and two-step will respond to the warm tones of "Uncle Bubble", a pleasant number replete with bongos, nicely funky piano licks, and catchy, mildly fractured beats. Finally, "Some Die", featuring Naked Music vocalist Ada Dyer, is a marvelously varied number which starts as an electro-tinged gospel track before descending into fast-paced jump-up which juxtaposes full-throttle manicness with uplifting vocals.

Ming & FS clearly have something going with this album. Somehow, they've managed to strike a harmonious balance between several disparate musical elements, combining them into an arresting pastiche of sound. Genre-hopping in the most complimentary sense of the term, The Human Condition will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows and get bodies out on the dancefloor.

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