Campbell: Tuned In: Tantric, Black Water Rising, Putumayo's 'Picnic Playground'

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Accessible Tantric maintains credibility

“MIND CONTROL,” Tantric (Silent Majority Group)

Tantric could be the goodwill ambassador of hard rock.

The band packs the obligatory electric smolder and bulldozing cadence required of its genre, but Tantric also has a disarmingly clear and melodic sound that creates a natural mainstream-friendliness. And although the act suffers from the requisite frustrations of life, the group’s new “Mind Control” is an adult handling of angst, alternating bouts of blowing off steam with rational enlightenment and positivity.

Tantric could also be the Beach Boys of hard rock, so striking are the vocal harmonies. The heavy emphasis on vocals makes sense not only because lead singer Hugo Ferreira is the lone survivor through years of tumultuous lineup changes, but also because his deep, rich voice is Tantric’s most distinctive feature.

“Mind Control,” the act’s fourth release, finds Ferreira snarling through the startlingly clear blues of “Run Out” (“What are you going to do when you run out of places to hide?”) and cutting in with cold calculation on “Desert Me” with, “It’s time for me to do to you what you have always done to me.” Yet he also dispenses empowerment to those who cut themselves to relieve stress (“Kick Back”) and rather bravely — at least for this genre — exposes his heart with the unpretentious, acoustic-guitar-based “The Past Is the Past.” The defining moment, however, is the grandiose “What Are You Waiting For,” where Ferreira dishes out tough love: “I think you want me to take you by the hand and show you what to do/What are you waiting for, another lame excuse?”

The band flavors its explosive rock foundation with trippy keyboards, piano and violin as it charges to the smoky brew of the optimistic closer “Guiding Me.” Along the way a few tracks feel incomplete and too often the lyrics go for the obvious, but overall “Mind Control” is powerful.

Rating (five possible): 3-1/2

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Black Water Rising gets a rise out of rock

“BLACK WATER RISING,” Black Water Rising (Capitol T)

Brooklyn’s Black Water Rising has a refreshingly pure mission with its self-titled release as the band simply plows through an uncomplicated set of timeless rock. There are no pretty boys in the quartet, no gimmicky instrumental tricks, no ridiculous bouts of screamo, no kitschy retro retreats into 1980s heavy metal or 1970s Southern rock.

“Black Water Rising” isn’t a self-important concept album, and though there’s a lot of fretting going on, frontman Rob Traynor doesn’t play the victim. Instead, after condmening authority figures who hold down the Everyman, the singer/guitarist calls for personal responsibility, commanding average Joes to, “Rise until you crack the sky!”

The release is straightforward hard rock — there are even guitar solos ripping out of the galloping rhythms — but it’s packed with as many hooks than a Justin Timberlake album. Traynor has a fine voice for the material, just raw enough for credibility (he can growl when he has to), but bold and smooth enough to carry out excellent melodies, whether it’s the pointed mantra of “Go on brother, go on” (from “Brother Go On”) or the multifaceted treatments of “Ain’t no halo over anyone’s head/I don’t give a damn what your good book said” on “No Halos.” He also adopts an effectively understated sarcastic tone for “Blessed,” singing, “I bet you think you’re above it all … You’d be singing a different tune/If it weren’t for your daddy and your silver spoon.”

The primal arrangements typically smolder and rail, a bit excessively and sometimes to muddying effect, but the group varies its approach with a meditative pause here and a bouncing chorus there.

Although the call-to-arms closing track “Burn It Down” needs more fire, “Black Water Rising” is a blistering blitzkrieg most of the way.

Rating: 3-1/2

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Even ants can’t ruin ‘Picnic Playground’

“PICNIC PLAYGROUND,” various acts (Putumayo Kids)

“Picnic Playground” is packed with so much engaging entertainment that kids might get educated without knowing it.

The compilation of children’s music from the fine Putumayo Kids label has many lessons to dispatch: eat well, enjoy life, celebrate Earth, learn about other cultures and maybe even pick up foreign words while you’re at it — and children are especially susceptible, er receptive, to the latter.

The collection is solid as all 12 tracks fulfill the basic requirements of a good children’s song: They’re playful, but they stay on topic to make quick work of matters, and they hang it all on irresistible hooks. Half the songs are entirely in English, a few are partly in English, and a few immerse listeners totally in foreign languages, so kids might learn some French, Spanish, German, Italian and even Danish.

There are tributes to healthy eating, such as Jay Mankita’s “Eat Like a Rainbow,” Rhythm Child’s “Bowl of Cherries,” Jose Conde y Ola Fresca’s “Bolitas de Arroz con Pollo” and Bomba’s “Pomodoro,” as well as those that blend a food theme with the good life, including South African singer Kheswa’s “Beautiful Day” that cherishes a trip to a farmers’ market, and Frenchman Franck Monnet’s “Goutez-les” that imagines a fantasyland where everyone has plenty to eat. There are also some oddities — Pascal Parisot’s droll “Mes Parents Sont Bio,” which finds a boy so frustrated by his parents’ obsession with organic food that he craves a big hamburger, and the Danish duo Safari’s “Peberpelikan” that pairs a fish-eating pelican with an imaginary pepper-eating bird to emphasize the importance of spices.

This “Picnic” also packs pure treats: The calypso-drizzled “Ice Cream” by Trinidad’s Asheba joyfully calls out a number of tropical flavors, and the collection ends, literally, with cookies (Maggie G.’s “Let’s Bake Cookies”) and milk (Donikkl’s “Milch”).

“Picnic Playground” will get kids coming back for seconds. And thirds.

Rating: 3-1/2

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