Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom

Morning RC,

Pulling a little executive rank (those of you with authority complexes-settle down now), I’m making a last minute switch of album selections today – so please cross off the Material and add today’s album instead.  Both were made by Bill Laswell – who is renowned in at least some segments of the population, but you can read more about him later. This album came out in 2001, and features his continuing take on dub, world, and reggae music.  Yes, reggae + me…intrigued? Well it ain’t your father’s reggae for sure.

Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom

Listen to it here:!/playlist/Bill+Laswell+Radioaxiom/70395429

Read about the artist here:

One year ago – Holly Golighty & the Brokeoffs – Nobody will be there

Fun Facts: Laswell’s artistic and commercial breakthrough came via jazz icon Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock album (1983); Laswell produced the album, played bass on all the songs, and co-wrote most of the material. Its track “Rockit” has frequently been regarded as a pivotal moment in the influence of hip hop and turntablism (via Grand Mixer D.ST). The track was the first hit song to feature turntable scratching. The collaboration has led to three other albums by Herbie Hancock, as well as numerous Hancock appearances on Laswell productions through the early 2000s.


Bill Laswell-RadioAxiom

Preconceived Notions-Never heard of this guy, but now know it’s a Forte pick which means I could know what I’m in for, or I could be surprised.  We’ll see.  I’ve just hit the play button and my first thought was “oh great a 7 and a half minute track”.  I’m going to go with “blech”….but if it’s awesome I’ll admit that I’m wrong

As Listening:
I tried to stop the thought from coming in to my head but much like poor Ray Stantz, once I tried not to think about it, the more it kept circling the periphery of my brain “This is the music that Sting has tantric sex to”.  There now you have it too.
Oh…they’re all 7 minutes.
This is over soon right?
I feel like this sounds like what either a movie featuring Madonna in 1988 should sound like or what the soundtrack to an inferior version of L.A. Confidential should sound like.

After Listening :
I’m sure this album makes a lot of sense to anyone in an altered state or anyone who’s super into bass or anyone who’s in to experimental reggae.  If all three of those describe you, CONGRATS!! You’ve found your life’s soundtrack.  Since none of those describe me, I couldn’t really muster up a whole lot of care or interest for this.  All the tracks sounded pretty similar to me, which is fine for one track, not seven.  I have no idea who Bill Laswell or Jah Wobble are.  If you had asked me about the latter last week, I would have that it was the name of a muppet.  I still feel like a know about as much or less than I did before.  If there was something remarkable about this album, I didn’t hear it, but there’s a lot of things that I miss.  Maybe it was the shining beacon of its type of music, but I guess, I just don’t like this type of music.  Good for being played low for massages or acupuncture treatments, but I’m not popping this in the car for a road trip.

Overall: 2.3 (the .3 because I’m assuming there’s something I missed)

For something to be a favorite or least favorite you have to be invested in the album, and I wasn’t.


Preconceived Notions:  Laswell has a catalogue that dwarfs much of the musical landscape and in terms of sheer productivity passes the discographies of Zappa, and comes within shouting distance of Zorn.  Critics and cynics will probably not be surprised by the volume when they hear one of Laswell’s records and notice it’s only a variation on two or three themes.  One of the reasons I chose Laswell for this go around was that too often during this season I found myself leveling the criticism about an album that “everything sounds the same”.  Welp, now it’s my turn: here’s an album by design that is supposed to have you trance out-get lost, and have only a vague idea or ideas of how to get back.

After Listening: I teased reggae a little with the intro, and while certainly it has its presence on this record, there’s almost more of a jazz tone to this release-as the trumpets and synths explore various jazz headers.. Also heavily in the mix are eastern rhythms – particularly Indian (but also African- Senegalese), while you would normally hear these in their natural acoustic deliveries (as you do briefly on Subcode) often Laswell will use heavy production to make them swell a little.  And while he’s swelling up say the natural bass of the tabalas, he’s tin’ing up the sound of the snare and high hat- which is an homage to the western traditions.  It’s a very artificial mix- done with purpose to create Laswell’s personal soundscape preferences.  When there is a singer here, the singing is done in Ethiopian-and rather beautifully against the “alien” backdrop that is also a Laswell theme. Jah Wobble’s presence on the album is showcased mainly in the bass playing, giving his riffs in short samples that are then looped into oblivion.

Favorite Tracks: Alsema Dub – the tabala rhythm that opens this track is amazing, and the ambient touches applied in the early moments lead to an expansive jam even before we get the 1st vocals.  Laswell with singers always produces something special and wind up wishing the entire record followed that pattern.
Virus B – Laswell’s stated concept for the album was intercepted alien transmissions and there’s nothing that embraces that on this album more than this piece.  There’s the swelling atonal vocals, the clippy synths, and the more shrieking reverb laden synths, in sections there’s even some fabulous reverb “wet” bass.  The looped bass keeps it all from falling apart, but there are a myrid of layers at work that do their best to be incongruous.

Overall 4.45 For the most part, this is what a Laswell production is – looped bass, a blending of eastern and western musical elements, and an intent to trance you out.  It isn’t an album for every mood or occasion, but there is a fantastic amount of musicianship going on underneath a very simple sounding concept.  It’s a challenge at times to stay with a piece long enough to find the hidden delicacies-and admittedly there are times when the tracks are just too long for what they bring to the table. Radioaxiom is one of Laswell’s more famous works-but odds are you can find something from him you really like thanks to his expansive catalogue and his will to experiment. In the end though you either gravitate toward these ideals or you doze off, seemingly this choice is given to you freely.


Bill Laswell – Radioaxim

Preconceptions: Only what I read in Mr. 40’s intro. I am a little apprehensive about what 40 considers “intriguing” reggae…

After Listening: Like most new school dub, a little goes a long way.

Irie: Alsema Dub, Orion,
Skettle: 6th Chamber

Overall: As with all dub, it’s the bass that carries this album. The problem is it carries it a lot longer than it should in this heat and eventually the bass is found confused and dehydrated at the side of a dirt road by a truck full of sugar cane harvesters. They give the bass shade and cool sorrel tea and send him on his way.

The occasional Ethiopian vocals are used as an instrument in the mix, requiring no comprehension. Missing from this version of dub is the echoey guitar and groove of the proper 1970s product. I am left with a lightly flavoured dub snack when I wanted a meal. A quick peek at Axiom’s catalogue revealed Mysteries of Creation, which is much more intriguing than this effort.

Rating: 3.1

Extra Credit: To fufill mu dub needs I had to go to the man who actually invented the re-mix, Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown!/album/King+Tubby+Meets+Rockers+Uptown/1290424


Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom
Preconceptions: Honestly? Any preconceptions that I may have had were ultimately tainted by the intro from 40. I know that I’ll be listening to dub/world/reggae music.

Mood: Blehhhhhhh…

As Listening:
Subcode – This sounds a lot like a “Showtime After Dark” soundtrack. Who knew that “dub/world/reggae” music was the term for “stroketracks”? It is really hard to take this music seriously when this music would make some people seriously hard.
Alsema Dub – It sounds like a film noir where our head detective vacations in Australia and has to solve the case of a missing tribal leader.
Virus B – Alright this song is a little boring. If something this long is this boring, it’s cruel.
Orion – At 6:35 in the song I looked at it and went “WHERE HAVE I BEEN?” This song and the previous one just merged together in a sea of awful.
6th Chamber – This sounds like it would be playing during a 90s made for TV movie about a kid who plays hooky and makes friends with a plucky (but dangerous) hobo and finds true happiness in a zen garden they create on the side of the train tracks.
Alam Dub – This is a song that would totally be used during one of Harry Dresden’s narratives in the short lived Sci-Fi TV show based on the books. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.” Go ahead. Replay the track and say that phrase, deadpanned with bucketloads of snark.
Second Sight – I kept expecting the beat to pick up into upbeat dance music due to the very misleading 20 seconds of the song.

After Listening:
I really enjoyed some of these tracks. The ones with vocal accompaniment called to me more than the others, but for the most part this is ideal writing music. It’s music you don’t need to pay attention to. It’s incredibly repetitive so you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. That might seem like a dig, but it’s actually a good thing for someone looking for tracks to listen to while writing. Sometimes I will be writing and I will get a song I know or a beat that I enjoy that pulls me from what it is I’m trying to say. Then I get angry or lose my train of thought. This isn’t about to do that.

However, if something isn’t compelling enough to keep my attention, the overall score suffers as well.

Favorite track/tracks:
Alsema Dub

Least favorite track/tracks:
Virus B

Overall (1-5 stars):  3


Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom: 3 stars

Precon: Sounds like a guy on public access.

Favorite Track: Virus B
Least Favorite: 6th Chamber

Everything echoes. I imagine this playing at a hip daiye spa/holistic healing and meditation center.
Was definitely putting me to sleep. I had to stop it until the circadian rhythms passed.
Looks like Jah Wobble isn’t a Jamaican rapper with a sick patois like I had hoped.
The whole thing seems to ride on that flavorful bass line. Good for new age ambient reggae.

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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