Music Reviews 


Reviews 8-25-2004


Version 2 Version:
A Dub Transmission
by Bill Laswell

ROIR Records  

Version 2 Version: A Dub Transmission is a set of ambient dub atmospheres from Bill Laswell with Jah Wobble, Bernie Worrell, Karsh Kale and Abdou Mboup as guests. This CD, from “Reachout International Records,” distributed by “Massive Music America,” features deep bass drones and dubs with hot rock guitar licks, synthesizer riffs, smooth pads and beds and cool experimental sounds.

Bill’s diversity is, of course, legendary in the e-music community. He excels in many genres and styles. His dub sessions have always attracted praise and critical acclaim and this one is no exception. While there are six distinct compositions, the disc plays as one continuous soundscape. The beats and dubs have reggae elements so the set plays as a sci-fi ska adventure. It is like Bob Marley in outer space. (He did spend some time there, didn’t he?)

Bill has been in the “do no wrong zone” for many years. This CD has no mistakes. It is an excellent disc!

Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Ambient Visions.


Once Upon a Time


Databloem/Data Obscura


One of the better new electronic/ambient labels out there is the Fax-records-inspired Databloem, and its DataObscura CDR sublabel.  Label heads Dennis Knopper and Anthony Paul Kerby have proven time and again that they've excellent tastes regarding new and unheard talent in electronic music, over the short time Databloem's been in existence.  We already know that Kerby himself is a fine musician, recording as both The Circular Ruins and Lammergeyer.  Knopper, on the other hand, waited some time before dropping his own musical debut on DataObscura, Once Upon a Time, under the moniker Spielerei. 

 Spielerei first appeared on the Databloem compilation Collection 2: Moving, with the track "Displaying Movements"--displaying "slick sequences, synth washes, and dreamy atmosphere recall[ing] the very best of Göttsching's mid-seventies material, but with a modern approach."  That track is also featured on Once Upon a Time in all its bright, sequenced glory.  First, though, we have "1 Out of 2000" which sounds rather like a Circular Ruins track; lancing synth solos, bubbly e-percussion, and strange, nearly chaotic electronic textures and elements which flitter wildly.  It almost reminds of an outtake from The Circular Ruins's Empathy Test at times, though the sound here is a bit moodier.  Obviously Kerby and Knopper's styles are aligned not just taste-wise.  After the fine "Displaying Movements," we move to "Kissing Fish," a stunner of an ambient track.  There's an old-school Vangelis, circa Blade Runner feel here, as elegiac synth sweeps are shot through with strange electronic whooshings.  We're above the city where it never seems to stop raining, our swift craft shielding us not just from the moisture, but also from the city's disharmony below.  Later, the track descends into deep ambience still further, with a drone not unlike Tetsu Inoue was capable of during his Fax-label years.  Terrific stuff.  "Incarnation" is also deeply ambient, with enveloping drones lightened by electronic sounds that pan across the speakers like slow lightning (there's an oxymoron, for you).  The sun comes out halfway through with a quite bright ambient-techno synth melody; gorgeous and enlivening.  A hint of percussion, and you've got a great ambient track that morphs seamlessly into an ambient-techno anthem.  "Once Upon a Time" is a nebulous combination of strange mechanical grindings, electronic textures, and vocal samples--chaotic, but still soothing.  Like some of the earlier tracks on Inoue's similar-sounding Organic Cloud, this doesn't quite gel over its length.  "Mistaken Identity" returns to bright ambience with lovely synth that recalls Mixmaster Morris's material; bright, psychedelic, and somehow watery.  Faint synth-soloing is also present, enhancing this brief track greatly.  "Spielerei" isn't exactly indicative of the artist's sound as one might expect.  Namlook-ian synth solos and glitchy rhythm sequences remind me more strongly of Fax material than the rest of the album suggests.  Nevertheless, considering his recent output, this track out-Namlooks Namlook.  Next, "Central Heating" is indeed warm, as soothing synthwaves shower the listener in a light and welcoming way.  Dramatic synth filters in, rising to a Klaus Schulze crescendo, and the track fades out into its successor.  "Symphysodon" is the longest track on the album, and is also, in my opinion, the best.  More synth drones cascade, with ghostly voices, unusual electronic textures, and great synth solos.  By track's end, a cool groove, recalling once again Tetsu Inoue, is introduced, quietly propelling the album to its close. 

I bring up classic Fax material often in this review, but by no means is Spielerei's debut slavishly copy-catting the works on that label.  Instead, he references the material, not to mention many other classic electronic musicians, and creates his own, original work, informed by past masters.  In fact, Fax fans will want to look out for Once Upon a Time, as it will remind them of what they enjoyed about the label during its golden years, without being derivative or dated, as some old Fax material is.  It's worth seeking out, especially if you've found recent Fax offerings lacking.  While Once Upon a Time does suffer from sameness between individual tracks, particularly on the latter half of the album, it's a fine and well-executed album of intriguing electronic music.  Knopper proves here that he can create great music as well as select great new artists for his label.  You likely won't find a better pure synth-music album in 2004.

Reviewed by Brian Bieniowski reprinted here on Ambient Visions.

Visit Brian's website by clicking here.


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