Khan - No Comprendo
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Khan
No Comprendo

Khan might just be one of the busiest people in electronic music. Not only has he had a truly prolific output as a solo artist (under tons of different monikers), but he's worked as a producer on tracks and even has his own music store. Last year, he released the compilation of sorts Passport, while 1999 found him releasing the electro-porn 1-900-Get-Khan. He's treaded through all kinds of different genres, including ambient, electro, minimal techno, and others, but No Comprendo is probably the most accessible simply because it brings the more human element of vocals into the mix.

Although many will probably look at this release as a step for the mainstream by Khan, it's really just more of a huge collaborative project. After assembling a batch of tracks, he went through a list of people that he wanted to work with and managed to get a contribution of both vocals and lyrics from everyone except Fred Schneider (of the B-52's). On 13 tracks, 8 different people sing, and some of them even contribute to two tracks. Although the lyrics all tend to stray to a seductive/downright dirty side (and downright dumb) of things, it fits the grimy and goofy sounds of the album quite well.

Just over the first half of the album is completely awesome. While some of Khans past work has simply felt like there was an element missing, it's just that element of vocals that helps totally kick start things. Of course, it helps that he's recruited a very wide batch of singers to contribute, and they all add sort of a signature style to the tracks that they sing on (and it actually sounds like the music was constructed with the vocalist in mind). Although the first track is in French and sung by Francoise Cactus, it's one of the infectious tracks I've heard lately with organ bursts, twangy guitar and super expressive vocals. The thick, pulsing bassline doesn't hurt either. If the first track was flirty sounding, the second one "Why Hurt Flesh" is downright sleazy. With Kid Congo Powers almost growling out vocals over a sort of grinding electro track with chanted backup vocals, it's an absolutely perfect pairing. On "The Wolf," Khan himself takes lead vocals (although he sings backups on almost every track as well) and follows up the previous track with another nicely nasty track.

Matador labelmate Jon Spencer does duties on "Monster" and although they come off as pretty silly most of the time, the track basically sounds like an electronic-injected version of his own band and sounds more like something that would have come off Xtra-Acme USA, it's still pretty fun. The two part track of "Say Hello" and "Say Goodbye" take on sort of an electro lounge feel (with Julee Cruise on vocals on the latter, it reminds one of Twin Peaks all over again) before the dank, dark "Aman" with Diamanda Galas wailing and howling. Hanin Elias adds some seductively sweet vocals on "The Bee" (which strangely sounds like a toned-down Atari Teenage Riot track) before Andre Williams proves he's absolutely off his rocker again in the overlong "Mercy Mama."

From there out, there are a couple more tracks and Jon Spencer, Kid Congo Powers, and Francoise Cactus all contribute vocals once again, but don't quite reach the levels of their first tracks. The album closes out with the only instrumental on the disc, sort of a quasi-electro western called "Guitar King." Overall, this is easily my favorite album that I've heard of Khans. Usually I'm not a huge fan of vocals, but the variety of those involved and the different sounds on the discs make it a release that keeps things changing up nicely without going off the deep end too much. I still doubt that it will get a ton of airtime, but I wouldn't mind if it did. Everyone needs a little sleaze in their diet.

rating: 6.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00