Volta Sounds 2003 - 56 minutes

The local rap crew, previously known as Creative Controle, changed their name following the exit of founder member DJ Mayhem, with the trio becoming a duo for the release of their debut album.

The band originally drew attention with the thunderous orchestration of their debut single 'Bloodrush', which was propelled by the stunning video by Dublin visuals company D.A.D.D.Y. 'Bloodrush's swooping strings established the band's sound, and pretty soon other tracks popped up on compilations, including the magnificent 'Overdose' (bizarrely absent here).

'What's Confusing You?' is a slick European-style hip-hop production, obviously influenced by the French rap scene and Brit-hop bands like The Brotherhood. The Expert's beats have branched out from those string-fixated early days, but the emphasis is still on classically-influenced instrumental loops with tumbling piano, glockenspiel and acoustic guitar all driving moody backing tracks.

The tango samples on 'Erazors' tips a nod to the Gotan Project, and shows a slightly more playful side to an album that can be a tad too gloomy for its own good. Messiah J's rhymes might be lyrically dextrous but his monotone soon becomes wearisome and the album would have benefited from a few extra voices. But the main problem facing 'What's Confusing You?' is the fearsome rate of change of hip-hop's state of the art, where an album that sounded superb three years ago seems a little dated in the post-Timbaland universe.

The consistent quality of the Experts' production work means that all is not lost, but it all seems a little too straightforward. More oblique angles next time perhaps.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: What's Confusing You - Check The Vision - Down The Stripshow - I Sigh - First Place - Hot Air - A Minute's Silence - Glass Theory - Before Before - Erazors - Flight From The Anthill - Six Feet With A Grin - Casting Eve - Bloodrush