July 17, 2002

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PERSONALS | MOVIE CLOCK | REP CLOCK | SEARCH

Polar
Out of the Blue (Certificate 18/UK)

Past press about Polar has dwelled on the icy Nordic precision of his music, despite the fact that this Bergen, Norway, native has been cold kicking it in Oakland for the past three years. The cover of his third solo outing, Out of the Blue, shows bright orange palm trees under a blanket of computerized snow, which is as good a metaphor as any for the combination of warm and metallic sounds contained within. Eight tracks combine Detroit electro flourishes and shimmering melodies to create a haunting electronic warmth in the manner of IDM darlings Plaid (one of Polar's main influences). In the past Polar has mainly stuck to drum 'n' bass, releasing dance floor-friendly bits on such jungle imprints as Moving Shadow, Oakland's Thermal, and his own Subtitles label. Out of the Blue finds him stretching out into less frenetic territory, settling into an easygoing, almost subterranean depth of feeling that spans the album's genres, from flat-out IDM to chill d'n'b to break-dance jams. Out of the Blue is far from dark and frigid, but it is pensive, proving that there are some personality traits that even a good dose of California sunshine can't erase. (Vivian Host)

Alias

The Other Side of the Looking Glass (Anticon)

The Other Side of the Looking Glass is a modest, occasionally dispiriting journey into Alias's introspection, foibles, and myriad other troubles. "I went unhappy to happy to unhappy once again / It's a boring mess of sixteen-measure soundbites and stretched-out lambskin that isn't even mine," he admits on "Jovial Costume." But much of the Oakland-based rapper's album is engrossing because, like a latter-day Morrissey, he's often comically candid about his shortcomings. Elsewhere, he's the "Angel of Solitude," a storyteller who pretends to be "the last one you see before your journey / And the one who releases answers to your uncertainty." An impressive if self-deprecating MC, Alias constructs a worldview that is undoubtedly an alternative to the affirmative (if equally self-obsessed) chest-thumping typical of hip-hop music. Unlike too many other melanin-deficient rappers, he doesn't waste time parodying his own whiteness and caricaturing black culture. He expresses nontraditional feelings while remaining true to his chosen art form. As Alias himself would say, that makes him "pretty good." (Mosi Reeves)