New music reviews: Blonde Redhead, Jimmy Cliff, King Khan, M.O.D., Terence Yin

Christmas carols are great and so is karaoke at holiday parties, but sometimes you need to listen to real music. Here’s some new, not-so-new, and upcoming stuff for you to stuff your stockings and earholes with. (Above: King Khan and The Shines at The Echo circa 2008)

Jimmy Cliff – Sacred Fire EP
Although it’s initally jarring to hear an originator of Jamaican music cover songs written by punk bands he influenced, the songs work. While Cliff’s famously silky smooth voice is intact after 63 years, Gilman St. product and producer Tim Armstrong has reintroduced the shanty town edge that made Cliff a rebel icon in The Harder They Come. And although Clash and Rancid covers will appeal to the rudies and punks, the reggae icon stays honest to his love of rocksteady and redemption by making a nearly perfect mix of anger and hope, old school and new jack–not to mention a compelling teaser for next year’s full-length follow-up. [Collective Sounds]

The King Khan Experience – Scion Presents
The leader of The Shrines and partner of BBQ’s solo gig sees the Canada-born, Germany-based frontman mellowing out from manic funk and garage rock and exploring smooth jazz (“Come Levitate with Me”), slow jams (“Dr. Ruin-Yer-Life”), and psychedelic dabbling (“Are You Serious?”). For a mortal this could come across as slacking or perhaps even seem like outtakes but what comes from a man-sized organ of lust like Khan is never a throwaway and always a hoot. From stoner sitar to krautrock disco, it’s all free for downloading from Scion A/V. [Scion]

Method of Defiance – Dub Arcanum Arcandrum
This release completes the trifecta from Bill Laswell’s latest super group with the likes of Bernie Worrell from Funkadelic, Mad Professor, and DJ Krush. Jahbulon was the first album, followed by Incunabula‘s instrumentals, and now we have a mix of remixes from the A-list participants as well as Prefuse 73, Scientist, and other luminaries. The treatments are as out-there and original as you’d hope–from extensions to inside-out–but arranged in a way that sounds good together. It’s no mishmash. The combination of roots, dancehall, electronica, and breakbeats can be overly slick and soulless in many cases, but this playlist is nothing but heavy (and heady) all the way. [Rephlektor]

Various Artists – We Are The Works In Progress
Blonde Redhead not only put together this upcoming benefit for post-tsunami Japan but even started a record label for it. That’s serious business, but the songs play like a mix tape of exclusive, rare, or unfinished gems from experimental electronica (Nosaj Thing, Tour Tet, Stalagtite) to art rock (Deer Hunter, Liars, Interpol) with representatives of the old guard (Terry Riley, David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto) thrown in for good measure. Yes, Blonde Redhead has two cuts as well, including a collaboration with Liars. The listening isn’t as easy or catchy as We Are The World, perhaps, but it matches the complex cause with an equally sophisticated mindset and presents a similar work ethic to boot. [Asa Wa Kuru]

Terence Yin – Transparent EP
Astute Giant Robot readers will remember Terence as sole member of Alive, the Hong Kong boy band made of toiling adult actors, who could actually sing. Instead of trying to mock Canto-pop as the group of friends did in The Heavenly Kings, he elevates it on this irony-free seven-song EP. Jun Kung contributes expert instrumentation of all kinds, Dan The Automator provides world-class production and beats, and Terence writes and sings his ass off–screaming like hell in “Special K” and then crooning like a choir boy in “Break Me Down.” Non-Hong Kongers should start with “This Is All We Know,” which is in English and comes across like a Cantonese Bryan Ferry singing for Massive Attack. [Revolution]