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Hypnotic homeboy rock

Weighing in at much more than just four ounces is Hypnotism (Intervention Arts), the debut album by Gauteng rock act Four Ounce Freedom. The album’s credentials are impeccable, with production by the likes of rock wizard Lanie van der Walt and Ashton Nyte.

Bookended by a bizarre motivational-tape hypnotic reading (“You will wake up feeling refreshed …”), the album’s 10 tracks are firmly rooted in raunchy rock, enhanced by a variety of other influences.

The guitars and percussion screech effortlessly from hardcore rock (Shift) to funk rock (Walk Away, which is like a mix of Wonderboom in hard-rock overdrive and early Springbok Nude Girls). Today tones down the noise for an acoustic-sounding few moments, before Scream has vocalist Dino Giovanoni doing exactly that, loud, with a driving undertone. You Deserve This is a Rage against the Machine-like intro to the wild Blame. There’s also a smattering of hip-hop MCing to be found.

Apparently Four Ounce Freedom label their mix of sound as funk-core: whatever you’d like to call it, it’s proudly loud and, despite the title, certainly doesn’t cause drowsiness.

Natalie Merchant: Motherland (Gallo)

Three albums into a solo career that has already yielded sales of six million, Natalie Merchant has found her own voice. The twee sparrow has been replaced by singing that quietly commands attention. The result, in contrast to Motherland’s hectoring predecessors, is a singer and writer’s album. Merchant and producer T Bone Burnett have cocooned her new vocal style in sweeping but subtle arrangements: the Arabic rumblings of This House Is on Fire or the orchestral backing to Henry Darger. Merchant’s lyrical scope is wide and brave: she covers lynching, the Columbine massacre and, on Tell Yourself, encourages self-doubting teenage girls the way all older sisters should. Sparkling of tune and fiercely intelligent, Merchant’s moment might have gently arrived. — John Aizlewood

Various: Grammy Nominees 2002 (Universal)

It’s Grammy time again and with it comes the yearly accompanying CD. This time it focuses on the main award categories: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, best new artist, best male vocal pop performance and best pop performance by a vocal group or duo. So gathered here is the cream of the crop with Alicia Keys’s stunning Fallin’, a live version of David Gray’s Babylon, Five for Fighting’s beautiful Superman (It’s Not Easy), Nelly Furtado’s singalong I’m Like a Bird, Outkast’s Ms Jackson and Brian McKnight’s Still. Sadly some tracks were not available for inclusion, according to the booklet, so there’s no Linkin Park with the powerful Crawling; unfortunately, the blandness of Elton John and the Backstreet Boys made it. — Riaan Wolmarans

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