DIVINATION

AMBIENT DUB VOLUME II: DEAD SLOW

  1/  Dead Slow                                  (Laswell)                     4.05
  2/  Baraka                                     (Laswell)                     15.08
  3/  Silent Fields                              (Laswell)                     4.05
  4/  Evil Eye                                   (Laswell)                     14.28
  5/  Dream Light                                (Laswell)                     9.59
  6/  Journeys                                   (Harris)                      13.31

          Recorded and mixed at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York
          Engineering, processing and treatments: Robert Musso
          Additional engineering: Oz Fritz and Imad Mansour
          Assistant: Imad Mansour
          Conceived and constructed by Bill Laswell
          Journeys done in the UK by Mick Harris
          Material, Inc.: Tracy McKnight
          Axiom: Peter Wetherbee
          Subharmonic A & R: Robert Soares
          Artwork for Bandcamp re-release by Yoko Yamabe @ Randesign
Bill Laswell: bass, sounds, treatments, processing; Jah Wobble: bass, sounds; Mick Harris (6): voices, treatments, sounds; Jeff Bova: keyboards, sounds.

          1993 - Subharmonic (USA), SD 7003-2 (CD)
          1993 - Interactive Multimedia Corporation/Subharmonic (USA), no catalog # (CDROM)
          2016 - Bill Laswell Bandcamp (digital)
Note: The IMC release contained a program that would coordinate graphics with the audio when played on a computer.


REVIEWS :

Swirling ambience, rhythmic beats and a groovy bassline... that's very often what is found in this package from Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Mick Harris and Jeff Bova. These are some pretty big names in the business, though I admit ignorance to the details. All I know is what I hear here... and I like it.

Everything begins with the hazy, droning title track, Dead Slow. Like a distant foghorn with some otherworldy sustain, it's 4 minutes of murky sonic waves and cavernous vibrations.

Baraka seems to be more of the same, billowing like a cloud for almost two minutes, but then the bass kicks in. You won't think it's 70's Motown, but the bass is very funky for the ambient world. It, and a very active yet quiet rhythm section, motivate this tune very nicely. The "traditional" ambient elements are all here; keyboard electronics, smoothed out synthetic bell tones, a weird "sproingy" sound. Sometimes they come to the front, often they're whirling around in the background. For 15 minutes, these various sound particles appear, disappear and reappear to intermix with each other.

The musical equivalent of a cold dark night, Silent Fields resonates with the swells of an alien world. There is no beat and very little light. I find this brand of darkness quite inviting though.

Evil Eye opens with the same black aura of space, but lightens up with some xylophone-like tinklings. A bamboo rhythm joins, followed with more percussion in the form of echoing drums, and again comes the electric bass, stamping the piece indelibly. These elements, once established come and go and frolic amongst themselves for 14+ minutes, like in Baraka, but sometimes quieter and more spacey.

The ethnically third-world sounding rhythm makes itself quickly known in Dream Light. But the bass dominates the song, in a sort of "rock"-style riff; it overlays, then is overtaken by, synth flutes and a particularly driving cymbal/snare beat. Everything eventually fades into a ringing emptiness, then vocal (movie?) and flute samples emerge temporarily. This is my personal favorite.

Journeys is aptly named. At least, with all the swooshing synthesizers and (jet- or train-like) rumbling, it sure sounds like we're going somewhere, some very strange place apparently. Interesting, but somehow not so interesting...

Dead Slow is quite a good ambient CD. The prominent bass differentiates it from most other releases I've heard. Everything about it points to total competence. It doesn't hold me in utter rapture, but it's solidly done. Here's my thumb that says so.

David J Opdyke (courtesy of the Ambient Entrance website)

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You could probably fill a book with a list of the projects Bill Laswell has played with or as in his careeróChaos Face, Material, Praxis, Painkiller, Death Cube K, etc., etc.† A lot of his reputation is based on his aggregate output with these groups; there is no one "Bill Laswell" record that you can point to and call definitive.† In some ways this is one of the best things about him, because you can pick up almost anything with Laswell's name on it and find something noteworthy in it.† The downside is that it takes several albums before people really get the feeling for the man's work.

One thing that does offset this problem is a relatively high level of consistency in form he's showed off since the beginning of the Nineties.† Most of the Laswell or Laswell-project records since then have been explorations in dark, heavy atmospheres, with his signature bass sounds floating through them or at times vanishing entirely and being replaced with an often puzzling Laswell-like presence.† If you like that kind of "illbient" texture experimentation, then the Laswell discs are next to impossible to go wrong with as a genre unto themselves.

They're also interesting for the roster of people who play on them.† Dead Slow brings Laswell together with Mick Harris, Jah Wobble and Jeff Bova (the first two of which are also accomplished bassists in their own right).† The six tracks on this disc are not entirely the kind of still-life soundscapes that Harris would also produce under the Lull pseudonym; some of them are quite propulsive and rhythm-driven, but the underlying sense of dark ambience is never very far off.† The shapeless title track is probably the closest the album gets to the really spacy, almost Lustmord-like sound that one would expect from a disc like this.† When the rhythms do kick in, they are glazed with glowing sitar sounds and rich with the pong! pong! sounds of Indian percussion.

I always found Laswell's snide comments about someone like Peter Gabriel being little more than a musical thief to be a case of pot/kettle/black, since he hardly seems any different.† This isn't to say that one is better than the other; they are simply satisfying different areas of exploration.† Dead Slow is an adventurous step up if you're interested in seeing how various musics of the world can influence the more technologically-minded.

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