Saul Williams, I Am Kloot, The Edukators OST
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Saul Williams/
I Am Kloot/
The Edukators OST

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

“HIP HOP IS lying on the side of the road, half-dead to itself/blood scrawled over its mangled flesh... diamond-studded teeth strewn like rice at karma's wedding.” On his self-titled second album, Saul Williams (Wichita)**** doesn't mess about. Well, he does a bit; what with his being a poet and actor, it's all but inevitable. But when he eases up on the posturing and gets down to cases, he cuts one of the most commanding figures to step into this particular arena of late.
 So-called “conscious” rap has a tendency towards the woolly and the self-congratulatory. Williams is neither. He is clever, vehement and prolix, knowingly placing himself in a tradition that stretches back via Public Enemy to The Last Poets. His sharply honed lyrics are set to a breakbeat/punk mash-up that calls to mind the staccato sound of N*E*R*D rather than the usual rock-rap suspects. Telegram and List of Demands are breathtaking pieces of work - as provocative, pertinent and inflammatory as the records they stand against are fatuous and complacent. Black Stacey may well be the best rumination on shades of skin colour since Curtis Mayfield's We People Who Are Darker Than Blue.
 There's a fair bit to enjoy about I Am Kloot's Gods And Monsters (Echo)**, and also a fair bit that grates. At times, the Mancunian three piece's cabaret eclecticism and nasal vocals dredge up unhappy memories of the Liverpool group Space, and the whiff of the novelty record that always lingered around them. But at their best, Kloot are unafraid to quietly and thoughtfully reflect the world they know. They deal, unfashionably, in vignettes - small scenes from small lives. They have an eye for the telling detail. Songs such as Sand And Glue and Dead Men's Cigarettes are all the more effective for their low-key mood.
While the German rock counter-culture doesn't have a specific style, you could certainly classify it as a school, vague yet always identifiable - one that encompasses plenty of adopted acts from outside the country. If you wanted a sampler, you could hardly do better than The Edukators OST (Mute)***. Aside from its omission of Nick Cave, it's got the lot: Leonard Cohen and sundry acolytes; latter-day torch songs; darkly-tinged and sharp-edged homegrown modernist electro-pop; the more cerebral variety of imported punk revivalism. To duplicate the feel of a Berlin squat, you need only a few spray-painted slogans and some art posters. It's enough to make you wish that our anarchists had the intellectual capacity of their anarchists.

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