1/  Black Aether                               (Laswell)                     4.19
  2/  Commander Guevara                          (Laswell)                     7.02
  3/  Oceans of Borrowed Money                   (Laswell)                     5.10
  4/  Aisha                                      (Laswell)                     5.41
  5/  Night Air & Low Frequency                  (Laswell)                     9.15
  6/  White Arc Special                          (Laswell)                     5.38
  7/  Aghora                                     (Laswell)                     9.47

          Recorded at Orange Music, Orange, New Jersey
          Engineered by Robert Musso
          Produced by Bill Laswell
          Material Inc.: John Brown
          Axiom: Bill Murphy
          Meta: Janet Rienstra
          Executive Producer: John Zorn
          Associate Producer: Kazunori Sugiyama
          Mastered by Allan Tucker at Foothill Digital, NYC
Bill Laswell: basses, noises, beats, soundscapes.

          1999 - Tzadik (USA), TZ 7044 (CD)


Bill Laswell in solo mood; the pieces contained here are primarily bass textures with occasional percussive accompaniment. Deep sonorous journeys into the soul of the bass. Unsettling at times, cold and alienating, Laswell is a visitor to dark worlds. Quite slow, at times atonal, there are musical references to Russell Mills' Undark, a sample of which is perhaps covered on Night Air and Low Frequency. I'm quite fond of Laswell's works especially since he covers such a vast array of musical territories; his prolific output is too large to keep up with. I doubt if this recording will set the world on fire; certainly it has copped some flak from radio listeners along the lines of Laswell turns this sort of stuff out by the bucket loads etc. To a degree I have to agree, but it's always interesting to hear what he's up to. You get used to hearing him play in any number of combinations or being just another fine player in an all star line up, else acting as producer, so that when a solo venture comes along, the ears prick up. One thing is for certain, respect is called for when it comes to Mr Laswell. If youhave not heard Laswell before don't be put off by this. Maybe listen to it after you have heard and been turned on by other projects. It all falls into place eventually.

Hans Stoeve (courtesy of the Nadabrahma website)


Bill Laswell is the Trickster God of the New York City experimental music scene, working his strange enchantment from the shadows, disguising himself in the masquerade of his myriad projects and labels; he cuts a figure of inscrutable motives, sometimes wrecking dreadful havoc, often consecrating the most joyful unions. Laswell's disparate train of revelers includes refugees from the original Parliament/ Funkadelic collective, the Last Poets, the inimitable Buckethead, the ghost of Old Bull Lee himself, William S. Burroughs, moonlighters from the John Zorn NYC free jazz scene, and a considerable amount of world and electronic music heavyweights. No two Laswell projects sound alike, and while many truly soar, even the ones that suck are at least stunningly unique failures.

Even if Laswell had retired in 1994 after releasing Axiom Ambient: Lost in the Translation, he could have rested fat on the laurels of having created one of the sex music masterpieces of the electronic age. But Laswell has persisted. And Invisible Design is clearly his most inspired composition since Axiom Ambient; even 1998's formidable Panthalassa pales beside the audacious genius of Invisible Design.

This album is Laswell's apocalypse. Gone are the train of revelers, gone are the occult ceremonials. This is the apotheosis of Bill Laswell, his ascent from a trickster god of shadowy ambivalence to a Creator of dazzling compositional authority. First off, Laswell has restored his bass guitar to primacy, a break from much of his dub and electronic output where his bass lines are layed down sparsely, then clipped, looped and treated. The opening track, "Black Aether," is a nightmarish masterpiece of dark ambient, punctuating long, slithering solo bass explorations with blasts of industrial crunch. The twilit "Commander Guevara" highlights the subtle lyricism of Laswell's meandering bass, accompanied only by faded washes of windchimes. The Eastern- tinged "Aisha" is one of the album's highlights: played by bass, tamboura, and gentle percusion, the track displays a tight, almost folk- like compositional structure that is rare in jazz and experimental music. "Night Air and Low Frequency" is reminiscent of the world- ambient bliss of Axiom Ambient and showcases the bass/ tabla lock that created the compelling rhythms of that album.

Invisible Design is a simply brilliant, though emotionally complex album, full of desolation and emptiness. Seldom does the Tzadik label produce works of real sustained psychological impact, opting generally for the wedding of musical brilliance and emotional sterility. There is something truly candid and open about Invisible Design that's a real gift from Bill Laswell, an artist who seems to celebrate obfuscation and mystery. Considering that Laswell records almost entirely under various band and project names, the fact that he's released Invisible Design under his own name is a testament to the honesty of the work. Laswell's opus stands as one of the most forthright and personal albums of instrumental music released this year. It possesses the gravity of a revelation.


Brent S. Sirota (courtesy of the Pitchfork Media website)