Ambient techno discs and spoken word humor

The Orb - CydoniaLooking for some background music, but not the Natural Wonders/New Age kind, with birds chirping and waves rushing behind it?

The Orb has a new disc out, Cydonia, on MCA Records, which features warm washes of synthesizers and sci fi-futuristic samples that stream along on top of non-intrusive beats and basslines.

"Hamlet of Kings" even features harp crescendoes. Much of the disc is pure ambient electronica, but on some songs, there are also layers of female vocals that seem, not so much like lyrics, but like additional soothing instruments. Oc-casionally, The Orb's tracks get up almost enough energy to be danceable ("Firestar"), but mostly Cydonia listens like the soundtrack to an avant garde science fiction movie…

Cafe Del MarFor a little more interest and variety in your techno-based, ambient background music, check out MCA's Café Del Mar Volume Seven. This various artists collection features ambient electronic remixes of songs from different artists.

It opens with Lux's "Northern Lights," an exotic yet simple instrumental that sounds much like the occasional singer on The Orb's disc. Also remixed, here, are Moby's eerily moody "Whispering Wind," and songs from Bush, UKO, Bedrock, Bent and more.

The soundtrack to David Spade's new comedy, Joe Dirt, is now available through Sony Music Soundtrax. The disc features a dozen classic rockers, from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," Argent's "Hold Your Head Up" and Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" to Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," Cheap Trick's "If You Want My Love" and Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' For You."

Also included are songs from Eddie Money, Sheriff, George Thorogood, Joe Walsh, April Wine and The Doobie Brothers.


Henry Rollins - A Rollins in the Wry Henry Rollins
A Rollins in the Wry

Henry Rollins is one of most colorful personalities in rock today – especially when he's not rocking! Rollins began his career in the early '80s as the prototypical angry punk singer in Black Flag.

Since the dissolution of that legendary punk act, Rollins has spent the past 15 years touring with The Rollins Band, another angry, hard rock outfit whose success culminated a few years back with the MTV favorite "Liar."

You'd never expect the heavily muscled and tattooed leader of these aggro acts to be a literate, humorous, thoroughly entertaining speaker. But over the past decade, Rollins has augmented his brutal rock delivery with a stream of books and spoken word albums and tours.

Last month, Rollins performed a spoken word night at Chicago's Vic Theatre to celebrate his birthday; the show sold-out, demonstrating that his soliloquies are as popular as any of his loud rock attacks. Over the course of a couple hours at the Vic, Rollins hit on many of his favorite themes, including a hysterical description of his grudging attendance at KISS' recent reunion tour.

If you saw that incredible show and want more — or if you've never heard Rollins talk about the things he finds annoying, funny, and just plain odd, you need to find A Rollins in the Wry. From the ridiculous situations that you can find yourself in at a Rite-Aid at 12:30 in the morning, to musings about the gay scene in L.A., to the amusing language foibles that a Czech fan offers in a letter, to excerpts from his personal journal detailing the bizarre experiences from his tours, Rollins slipstreams through subjects with entertaining ease, and often loops back to connect seemingly unconnected topics.

The result is an album of literate, funny, sometimes poignant stories. He is funnier than your average monologist, but has more depth than your average comedian.

Here's an excerpt from one track about his personal love for language and respect for President Clinton's slippery ease in using it:

"I was thoroughly impressed when Bill Clinton did his, like, five-hour testimony on how he didn't get it on with a girl ... basically, he had 800 spears a minute thrown at him for five hours and he dodged every one of them. Amazing. You know, most Americans cannot speak English; here's a guy who uses his tongue prettier than a $50 whore. They should teach Clinton in college. [He knows] how to get around in the language – he is just like an eel in the weeds in the ocean …I just thought he was brilliant."

At his recent Vic show, Rollins proved himself a rivetting, live presence, and much of that same energy is captured on this disc. While his monologues are not for children — he indulges in adult topics and uses the F word frequently — Rollins will no doubt appeal to fans of Dennis Miller. Call him a Dennis Miller of the punk rock set.

Intelligent, thoughtful, funny, and without pretension.