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*** MESSIAH, “21st Century Jesus”; AmericanOn...

*** MESSIAH, “21st Century Jesus”; American

On its first full album and major-label debut, this British techno-duo manipulates familiar beats and samples into uncharted and explosive material. Mark John-Davies and Ali Ghani have released numerous singles, but finally hit big in U.S. clubs and on college radio with 1992’s single “Temple of Dreams.” Now Messiah roughs up its electronic songs with some heavy-duty production via Rick Rubin, while still making its driving sound a more mainstream listening experience. The result is an album that straddles the line between charged underground rock, edgy disco and effective, hard techno.

The album brims with layers of pulsing beat and a groove that seems made up of spare parts. The snippets blend with the lilts of the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, Donna Summer’s spacey croons of “I feel love,” and a guest appearance by the Cult’s singer Ian Astbury. Messiah has made an album that’s good on or off the dance floor. It’s not too cerebral and is more substantial than just a quick adrenalized rush. The more you listen to it, the more you find.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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