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London's Freestylers are perfectly poised to simultaneously define and defy the multitude of genre tags that surround beat-driven music. The band's 1998 debut, We Rock Hard, showed Freestylers' incredible diversity and broad expertise under the basic breakbeat umbrella. With their sophomore release, the raucous and even more ambitious Pressure Point, Freestylers (DJ/producers Aston Harvey and Matt Cantor, plus a host of guest vocalists) continue to broaden their sonic embrace, perfecting their proven styles while incorporating both contemporary beats and classic old-school moves and grooves into a frenzied genre gene splice.

The most prominent spice in the Freestylers' recipe is a thumping dancehall overlay that injects Pressure Point with an effervescent reggae energy, courtesy of the hip-hop talents of Tenor Fly and Navigator, both of whom contributed greatly to We Rock Hard. Navigator's work on "Get Down Massive" sets the high-octane tone as he dancehalls madly over Freestylers' double-time breaks, coming back later to slow it down with the dub-trance throb of "Bad Boy Love." Tenor Fly throws down a hip-hop gauntlet of his own on the infectious and inspired "Weekend Song," a track destined for dance-floor greatness, then brings the noise again on the loping bounce of "Phenomenon One." Freestylers are no mere boys' club; Valerie M's vocal on "Calling" is equal parts pure soul diva and hip-hop/reggae earth mother, while Petra's bluesy soul honeyed voice is the perfect complement to the sensuous and slinky "Told You So." And for classic rap and rave pulse, there's the Cardinal's effusive "Broadcast Channels" and the manic breakbeat groove of "Blowin Ya Brainz."

On paper, Freestylers' sound and vision seem to cover too much map, but their skill at weaving it all together keeps Pressure Point cohesive and focused. With the number of genres that they pull into the mix, Freestylers are the human equivalent of the perfect mix tape or request night at the club with the perfect DJ.

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Brian Baker

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