1/ Return to the Original Matrix (Scharin) 11.53 2/ Shades of Appearance (Scharin) 9.00 3/ Possibility Waves (Scharin) 5.18 4/ Written In Nowhere (Scharin) 17.07 Recorded and mixed by Doug Scharin at Activities of Dust, Evanston, Il Bill Laswell and Bernie Worrell recorded at Orange Music, West Orange, NJ Engineer at Orange Music: Robert Musso Assistant at Orange Music: James Dellatacoma Additional editing at West West Side Music, New Windsor, New York August 30-31, 2007 Assistants at West West Side: Alan Douches and Dan Coutant Produced by Doug Scharin Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side MusicDoug Scharin: drums, loops, keys, bass, percussion; Jeff Parker: guitar; Bernie Worrell: Clavinet, Rhodes, synth; Bill Laswell: bass.
2008 - Adluna Records (France), AR003 (Vinyl) 2008 - Adluna Records (France), AR003CDDVD (CD)Note: The CD version comes with a bonus DVD containing a video for Track 1, created by Doug Scharin.
The music makes complete sense for the players involved. Directed by Scharin, it takes on a deeply rhythmic post-rock guise, anchored in the style’s most defining characteristics of the late-1990s boom. His drum work leans to the more rigid direction of rock (versus a more free, jazzy-style of playing), but it provides a much-needed spine for the other musicians’ swirling cascades of melody. Laswell’s penchant (if such a varied musician can have such) for dub-inspired bass lines are the only other grounding force. When he underpins the ambient sprawl, such as on “Return to the Original Matrix,” it really flips the song’s vibe on end. Suddenly it’s not as much an exercise on manipulated feedback, but a head-nodding groove home to a number of stylistic eras.
Being that Parker was the first to flesh out Scharin’s feedback-based compositions, he’s the main supplier of melody. Like his contributions to Tortoise, Isotope217 and the like, his playing is warm, sinuous and deceptively simple. The melodies, closer to outlines or etchings than discernable themes, spring unmethodically out of the cascades of sound provided by the other players. Its effect is almost puzzle-like: the pieces shift and wander until a specific motif arises out of the randomness.
Worrell keys are the album’s flesh and tone. As he has done for decades on end, his unorthodox keyboard rifts amplify the effectiveness of the other contributions while also adding a touch of electric funk in the most unsuspecting places. What would be a dubby post-rock piece, solid in its execution but sans personality, becomes a tweaking and snarling ode to early ’70s experimentation.
The four tracks of A New Mind showcase the quartet’s proven talent, but these pieced-together productions do tend to dilute each musician’s potency. There’s an air of predictability to the accumulation of sounds, something that might have been avoided had Activities of Dust played off each other instead of just the tape.
Michael Ardaiolo (courtesy of the Dusted Magazine website)
A new project spearheaded by drummer Doug Scharin (HiM, Mice Parade), Activities of Dust also draws on the improvising talents of guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise, Isotope217), Bill Laswell (Material, Painkiller, Last Exit), and Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic, Talking Heads). A New Mind, an admirably succinct forty-three minute set that was assembled from hours of recorded material laid down during 2006 and 2007, opens strongly with “Return to the Original Matrix,” eleven minutes of heady jazz-funk in that familiar “Pharaoh's Dance” style, with Laswell's pulsating bass, Parker's shuddering accents, and Scharin's rim-shots and ride cymbals leading the charge while Worrell sprinkles electric piano overtop. The intensity cools for languorous episodes in “Shades of Appearance” and “Possibility Waves” before the seventeen-minute “Written in Nowhere” alternates episodes of splash and sprawl and loose-limbed proto-funk before bowing out with a peaceful guitar-and-bass spotlight.
In its experimental style, the material's free-form flow makes Activities of Dust sound a bit similar in spirit to Paul Schütze's Phantom City band (Laswell's participation in both naturally strengthens the association), with one critical difference: Schütze's outfit, so definitively captured on Site Anubis (1996) and Shiva Recoil, Live Unlive (1997), includes players such as trumpeter Toshinori Kondo and guitarist Raoul Björkenheim who are first-rate, front-line soloists; by comparison, Parker and Worrell appear more comfortable adopting the role of atmospheric colourists. Consequently, A New Mind lacks a bit of the fire that dynamic soloists with highly personalized voices would have brought to the sessions. Nevertheless, it's always a pleasure to hear Laswell's distinctive bass lines threading their way through anyone's mix, and Worrell's Fender Rhodes and clavinet are welcome too.
Sadly, the less said about the video accompanying the release, the better. The DVD contains a treatment for “Return to the Original Matrix” that's hopelessly dated and frankly crude, and the heavily saturated colour-manipulated treatments of bridge structures, natural landscapes, and geometric patterns used as accompaniment to the eleven-minute track would have been dismissed as cheesy as far back as 1982. One thought kept continually coming to mind while I watched it: why not simply show the four musicians playing the material live? Footage of Laswell, Worrell, Parker, and Scharin interacting would be a whole lot more engrossing than a non-narrative stream of images and patterns. Though it is a beautifully designed package, ignore the DVD—it's a bonus, anyway—and focus on the music which holds up well enough on its own, all things considered.
courtesy of the textura website