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Various Artists: Cup of Tea: A Compilation

Cup of Tea: A Compilation, (Quango 162-531-067-2, 52:54) highlights the best of the Bristol-based Cup of Tea label, Bristol being the Seattle of the progressive music scene (home front for artists like Tricky, Portishead, and Massive Attack). The sonic touches on these tracks-the genetically altered dub of Statik Sound System’s “Up in the Air,” the cinematic hip-hop of Red’s “Squeeler”-enhance, rather than distract from, the compositions. Anything may pop up on these tracks at any given time, making this the kind of stimulating listening experience that used to be mainstream hip-hop’s stock in trade. The sounds aren’t all there is to enjoy, though. Monk And Canatella’s damaged musings on “Water My Plants” are as central to that song as its cheesy, analog effected guitar riff. More evidence of England’s preeminence in the post-pop universe is pretty superfluous at this point. Still, this collection is another exclamation point at the end of the pro-Brit argument.

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