release is styled a ‘dub’ transmission. Laswell is known for his work in the
ambient field but this is not an ambient album, .It is, an old fashioned
electric-jazz blues style jam session , with an emphasis on a reggae beat, kept
in various turns by percussion, electric keyboards,and wah guitar. The
simmering stew is anchored by Laswell’s thick, bluesy basslines.
“Dub” is a style that manifested as a result of reggae
producers fooling around with post-production studio equipment during the
1970s. Basically it involves adding certain effects and manipulating sound to
produce a “mix” after the fact. In many cases the effects and manipulations
are the focus of the style. Delay and reverb are used heavily. The delay is
usually "synched" to the rhythm, often a rock or reggae rhythm (although delay
speed, often using tape echo or a modern simulation, is changed frequently, and
often used as a solo feature).
Laswell has been enamored of this style for some time and
often collaborates with other players comfortable with this style, such as Jah
Wobble and Bernie Worrell, both present here.
Although I prefer a previous outing in this series
recording remains quality stuff. It is however, highly rhythmic, and resembles
a “laid-back” jazz-rock session of the 70s. Virtually all of the pieces share
sparse, intermittent chordal
accompaniment, strong contiuous basslines with firm melodic and harmonic
foundation, reggae rhythmic decoration and fragmentary , brief improvisation.
“Dystopia” begins the set and the instrumentation,
relatively consistent throughout, is Laswell’s bass. wah guitar, (possibly
Wobble, the liner notes don’t say) Worrell’s electric and electronic keyboards,
drums and percussion, including “world” percussion such as Karsh Kale’s tables.
The piece is midtempo with a loping , constant bassline. Worrell uses electric
piano primarily and it is usually heavily delayed. On this piece, there is the
occasional tamboura sound in addition to the others. Laswell and the musicians
are careful never to “Step” on each other’s moments but instead there is plenty
of space to allow the music and
atmosphere to take over . This results in a track that features reverb and echo
. The actual piece is minimally composed; a few chords that provide a structure
and drop in and out of the mix and percussion that comes to the fore and fades.
The main constant throughout the recording is the bass, which drops out rarely.
“Simulacra” continues the midtempo groove and provides a few moments of gritty,
bluesy, wah-wah guitar. A soulful brief organ accompaniment wafts in and out.
Space is given to the events so that echo can trail off into silence.
Space-Time Paradox” allows the bassline to plod a little , which has the effect of allowing modulated
percussion to take center stage. Some brief synth pads sound almost startling
in this context and there is also a guitar solo that is well-executed and has a
little “bite’ in it. “Babylon Site “ has a few catchy moments and lays down a
groove that almost veers into swing with bouncier and less fragmentary jamming
than the previous tracks.”Night
City” created an
interesting visual in my mind - a futuristic, Ralph Bakshi-lke urban space that
was largely empty. The eerie lonliness of the tune is enhanced by a nice
mournful motive that sounds vaguely like a foghorn in the distance. The final
track, “System Malfunction”, opens with machine-like rhythms that stand in some
contrast to the rest of the recording. They are mixed down and a plaintive
chord progression is hypnotically repeated on the organ. The pauses and spaces
in this piece are nicely integrated with the busier sections for maximum
“Version 2 Version” is not the usual ambient fare, but if my
description of this music intrigues you, this is very well done atmospheric
dub. I enjoyed this release and look forward to more in this series as the
prolific Laswell continues his musical journey.
Reviewed by Mark