Music Reviews 


Reviews 10-28-2004 


Version 2 Version-
A Dub Transmission

by Bill Laswell
W/Jah Wobble

ROIR Records


This 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
“Radioaxiom”, this 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 effectiveness.

“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 Morton for Ambient Visions.


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