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So ... 'ja miss me?

So ... 'ja miss me?

Let's kick it off with a couple of recently released music DVDs. Distinguished indie label Ipecac Recordings is responsible for A Purge of Dissidents, an audiovisual collaboration between former NYC graffiti artist Dalek (James Marshall, not to be confused with the rap artist Dälek ... note the lack of an umlaut) and musician HAZE XXL (Tom Hazelmyer of Halo of Flies). The series of videos showcases the stylish absurdism of Dalek's language, especially the ever-present "Space Monkey," set to simplistic animation. Though the juxtaposition of cartoon imagery with violence like stabbing and bludgeoning appeals, the overall texture is abstract and will seem static to those raised on the dynamism of anime. (Then again, Aqua Teen Hunger Force does well for some unfathomable reason.) The soundtrack, however, is quite good, with thrillingly ragged and noisy rock. Helmed by HAZE XXL, it sports contributions by interesting artists such as the Melvins, Jon Spencer, Grant Hart (Hüsker Dü), David Yow (Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid) and Craig Finn (the Hold Steady).

Anyone who's ever experienced the multimedia wonder of a show by literate ambient-rock band the Books probably wishes they could get their hooks on the integral video portion of their act. Well, now you can with Playall, a compilation of the same simple but clever music videos played at their concerts. True to their found-sound musical approach, which employs samples and other lifted atmospheric noises, these videos are culled from unusual but everyday images. But rather than random collages, the pictures are arranged with the music and lyrics to strike correlations in fleeting, unexpected and often humorous ways ("Take Time" being the capital example). There's even a cool anagram sequence that fires a string of funny permutations of the word "meditation." Brimming with creativity, this DVD is the definition of low-tech/high-impact. The production techniques may be middle-school, but the approach is thoroughly art-school.

The beat

Flanked by dual video screens flickering with images of flames, implying some sort of hell, Def Jux don El-P peeled the lid off the Social June 1 with a set slammin' with crushingly dense layers and doomsday beats that breathed down my neck like a heaving beast. To echo the stirring work of stunning bleakness in his recent magnum opus, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, he and his crew — which included a real bassist, a real keyboardist and turntablist extraordinaire Mr. Dibbs on the decks — came out dressed like urban guerrillas and dropped a gut-punching performance that would've made the Bomb Squad proud, leaving little doubt that El-P is one of the fiercest forces in the hip-hop underground.

The next night, Back Booth landed a major coup with an exemplary bill crowned by what will certainly go down as one of the year's best performances. In a truly innovative and rousing display, Baltimore's Dan Deacon proved that an electronic music über-dork not only could rock the house down but also could completely change the language of the live performance. The stage might as well not have existed, because he set up his tabletop shop of gizmos in the middle of the floor. Once the head-bursting glee of his ecstatically beautiful music began, the crowd huddled around the glow of his rig like a campfire erupted into a total freakout. Frenzied, cathartic — hell, religious even — the immersive and uniquely interactive affair often reached the pitch of a wild tribal ritual, especially during the finale of "Wham City," when audience members were given custom-made choir costumes to wear and lyric sheets so they could sing along. Never before have I seen the barrier between performer and audience dismantled so completely. Truly a transcendental display.

Tourmates and fellow Baltimore artists Video Hippos were impressive as well. In addition to a large projection screen in motion with basic art clips, they too played their garage-y, electronic-minded post-punk on the floor with jubilant, headlong abandon, even bashing the drums till they literally collapsed.

Making a pretty sweet showing for the locals was Cracker Jackson, a rhyme-spitting twig dripping with indie irony. All those earnest saviors of hip-hop in town better look out, 'cause this one-man party's subverting it all and he's really good. Packing better-than-average flow and rapid-fire humor, he danced, sang and just plain killed with his nerd-raunch schtick. More than anything, by putting himself totally out there in all his ridiculous glory, he demonstrated a true grasp of the performer concept. And seriously, it's nothing short of a moral imperative to salute anyone who crafts an expression as brilliant as "fuck you with a dick full of awesomeness."

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