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DIGABLE PLANETS : “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)” Pendulum/Elektra

*** 1/2 Revolving in an ethereal world, Digable Planets are sweetly revolutionizing rap.

On “Reachin’,” the New York-based trio’s marriage of be-bop and hip-hop conjures up celestial images rather than Uzis, offering a sublime alternative to gangsta rap. The Planets’ debut album distinguishes the band from fellow mellow rap musers P.M. Dawn and Arrested Development by weaving an eclectic blend of live jazz instruments to distinctively dreamy lyrics.

Despite the honeyed sound, “Reachin’ ” isn’t all sweetness and light. The threesome--who selected the monikers Butterfly, Ladybug and Doodlebug before embarking on their music careers--are fully capable of a lyrical sting.

Mourning the demise of swing in “Last of the Spiddyocks,” Butterfly raps, “I’m pinning Uncle Sam for the death of swing . . . they kill this coolest breeze in the land of the free.”

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By design, their musical style and look hearken back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, with the beat and bop references sprinkled throughout the album adding a comfortable dose of familiarity to a sound that is refreshingly unique.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).


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