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: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Bill+Laswell+Radioaxiom/70395429
Read about the artist here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Laswell
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.
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
After Listening :
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.
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,
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.
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
|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.
However, if something isn’t compelling enough to keep my attention, the overall score suffers as well.
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 3
|Bill Laswell – Radioaxiom: 3 stars
Precon: Sounds like a guy on public access.
Favorite Track: Virus B
Everything echoes. I imagine this playing at a hip daiye spa/holistic healing and meditation center.