1/ Astral Altar (Laswell) 11.41 (The Gateway of Legba) 2/ Asiyah Dub (Laswell,Katz) 11.09 (Blinding the Starry Eyes of God) 3/ The Terran Invasion of Alpha (The Alchemist) 11.40 Centaurai Year 2794 4/ The Black Meat (Deconstruction of (Laswell,Katz) 12.12 the Bebel-Tower of Reason) Recorded and mixed at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York Engineering and programming: Robert Musso Assistant: Layng Martine Created by Bill LaswellBill Laswell: bass, sounds; Gabe Katz: bass, sounds; The Alchemist (DJ Spooky): turntables; Sly Dunbar: beats.
1994 - Strata (USA), 0004-2 (CD) 2016 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital only)
Dan Foley (courtesy of the Ambience For the Masses website)
This release will appeal to fan's of Bill Laswell's other ambient dub project, Divination (particularly "Dead Slow"), although somewhat less accessable. Dispensing with the sequencers and other nods to techno and drone ambient that fleshed out "Dead Slow", Automaton is more primal. Each of the four 12 minute tracks is dominated by a huge reverby dub bass sound which manages to magnify the apparent size of my bookshelf speakers several-fold. Laswell has apparently taken pointers from Jah Wobble, and slowed the tempo of his bass lines to better induce nodding off. Skittering across the top are some fragmented beats by Sly Dunbar. His name is in smaller print on the liner note, leading me to believe that, as on previous Laswell projects, session recordings of his were used without his active collaboration. But, it's recognizably Sly, and is subjected to a good deal of twisty echo manipulation. Occasionally, the beats are left askew of the bassline tempo, which either signals haphazard construction or polyrhythmic tape experimentation. It's not a meticulous recording, sounding instead like the product of a few days worth of studio improvisation. Tabla is prominent on track 2, sounding like a working tape for Material's "Mantra". There's some other ephemera joining the fray, namely non-vocal machinery and whale-song samples, but this album depends mostly upon that enveloping bass sound as it's hook. Packaging for releases on Laswell's new Strata label is rather sleek: Glossy black jewel cases, with the album title imprinted directly on the plastic. The graphics make nods to African Headcharge, the Suns of Arqa albums, and Japanese comic style, while the track titles include Laswell's obligatory W.S.Burroughs reference. (the last track is entitled "The Black Meat"). Automaton is a worthy attempt to strip dub down to its essentials. I almost feel guilty for enjoying it, it's so simple in places. I'm looking forward to the Automaton's 2nd release, "Jihad", in January.
Darryl Stephen Roy (courtesy of Hyperreal’s Epsilon review site)
This is a Bill Laswell album, one of his numerous projects; this one under the name Automaton (hence the confusion with the Seattle band). The group for this one involves: Bill Laswell - bass, producer / Sly Dunbar - drum programmer / Gabe Katz - bass (#2,4) / DJ Spooky - scratches (#3). This set is even more sparse than most of his stuff! We're talking about the bare minimum of elements to create a 'song'. Mostly it's just a deep bassline and a minimal drum part; usually in a Reggae-style. There's a few voices drifting by, and an ambient 'swoosh' or 'bleep', but most of this is just a groove with minor Dub production effects on the drums. Even his work for ROIR is more complex than this. The exception is the quite beautiful Drum & Bass-styled third track, which doesn't have more elements; just more interesting ones. This album works great for blissing out, but I prefer the other Automaton album titled, "Jihad Points of Order". It's two 23 minute pieces that are more satisfying and approach Eno-esque atmospheres.
3 out of 5 stars
Sambson (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)