1/ Eternal Signs (Laswell,Graves) 9.07 2/ Sonny Sharrock (Laswell,Graves) 10.08 3/ Another Space (Laswell,Graves) 17.33 4/ Autopossession (Laswell,Graves) 9.12 5/ Another Time (Laswell,Graves) 15.33 Recorded at Orange Music, West Orange, New Jersey Engineered by Robert Musso Assistant: James Dellatacoma Produced by Bill LaswellMilford Graves: drums, voice; Bill Laswell: basses.
2014 - TUM Records (Finland), TUM 40 (CD)
Space/Time – Redemption is made up of only five “songs” and just over half of the running time belongs to two tracks—“Another Space” and “Another Time”. These are the two tracks where Milford and Laswell surrender all they have while allowing their ideas to stretch and stretch some more. It’s especially impressive that Laswell is able to place his sounds in and around some incredibly complex drumming from Graves, who never takes the easy way out of anything on this release (or ever, probably).
Subtlety is saved for the other tracks, like “Autopossession”, which is a nine-minute percussion piece, though Graves’s sense of musicianship allows you to almost overlook that fact. “Sonny Sharrock”, named after a unique guitarist with whom both Graves and Laswell were lucky enough to perform, is allegedly built from the melody to “Auld Lang Syne” (combining Sharrock’s name with the New Year’s folk song on Google doesn’t yield an explanation for this). But they didn’t need to paraphrase anything to get the tune going, with the bass’s ghostly overtones setting the scene for Graves’s kitchen sink. Starting track “Eternal Signs” also has a melody to share, one that is seemingly at odds with the polyrhythm tumbling from the drum kit.
It’s a good thing when talented musicians remain prolific, especially when they are inching so close to the air when your average working stiff begins to size up their 401K. By the same token, that prolific nature could mean that Space/Time – Redemption will get lost in the shuffle of Bill Laswell’s already-overflowing catalog (he once told me that his name appears on at least 3000 projects). As all kinds of media and entertainment endlessly flow through our collective nets, here’s hoping that Space/Time – Redemption snags itself to the netting long enough for us to evaluate or luck with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell still hanging around.
John Garratt (courtesy of the Pop Matters website)
Music is a mysterious thing, and in a sense, all music that ever was and ever could be exists right now, just waiting for the right musician to bring it forth.
Music is meant to be experienced and not merely listened to. Its power is in its emotional content which is conveyed to us by rhythm, melody and harmony.
Those musicians who can tap into this energy are the ones who move audiences and even change lives.
Master drummer/percussionist Milford Graves and bassist/electronic wizard Bill Laswell are two such people. Together they have produced Space/Time -Redemption, an extraordinary example of the bringing forth out of the ether something with such power.
Interestingly, music without the usual signposts of patterned rhythm played against melody and harmony (i.e. "free") can have a much stronger emotional impact because it resists the analysis which inevitably comes with standard rhythm, melody and harmony.
Graves drives the music, playing his drums as an instrument and does not "keep time" in the normal sense. Laswell is almost along for the ride saying, "Understanding the unique rhythmic thrust and fractured sonic patterns of Milford Graves' tribal matrix is like trying to synchronize raindrops. Time is lapsed, accelerated and finally erased. Time is that which ends."
Laswell's bass sound is highly processed, with many added electronic artifacts, contrasting the technological and modern against Graves' primal playing. His sound provides a huge space which surrounds Graves allowing him to roam as he wishes.
A key part of this music is the fact that Graves' drums all have distinct pitches. This includes the bass drum which provides a deep, thick and palpable floor that supports everything above. Headphones are recommended, unless the playback system is superb, so this can be heard and felt.
Each improvised piece has its own flow. Graves' playing is highly complex in its use of constantly changing polyrhythms, but is also surprisingly simple and direct in its emotional message. Laswell provides at times long, flowing lines that are anchored tonally to the bass drum, and at other times provides counter rhythmic sounds, playing off Graves.
The total effect is mesmerizing and deeply emotional. Through Graves and Laswell, we can begin to understand that we are not merely isolated, single atoms being tossed about in a chaotic and incomprehensible universe, but rather that we are a part of the universe that is conscious of itself.
Nothing could say it better than Graves himself: "THE PRIMARY OBJECTIVE of the totality of the Celestial-Mystic-Spiritual-Scientific musician is to initiate an intradynamical thrusting force of the various particles that comprise the Earth's conscious cosmic mysteries that interact with the human biological system. The frequency of these particles should be compliant with the cosmic energies that impinge on the tympanic membrane-cerebral-heart connection. Through our given sensory receptors and biological transducers, it is possible and permissible to creatively decipher the concealed and hidden energies within and beyond the universe to activate the innovative-creative process to go BEYOND CONSCIOUS UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE."
Bud Kopman (courtesy of the All About Jazz website)
Bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Milford Graves have recorded a studio album, Space/Time Redemption, for the Finnish TUM label; it’s out now. (Get it from Amazon.) The disc contains five lengthy improvisations, and runs just over an hour. It’s not their first duo interaction; when Laswell curated a residency at John Zorn‘s performance space The Stone in 2014, the two men improvised together, and the results were released, as a single lengthy track, on the bassist’s MOD Technologies imprint. In the January 2015 issue of The Wire, I wrote, “Hearing [Laswell] paired with free drummer Milford Graves on the 40 minute ‘Back in No Time’ is like listening to two records at once. The two men rarely intersect—nobody’s gonna make Milford Graves play a groove—but hearing their individual meanderings in parallel produces a lot of magic.”
Being a studio creation, the balance of power is a little more tilted in Laswell’s favor. The drums are granted equal space in the mix, of course, but they’re recorded in an extremely naturalistic manner. Thus, pairing them with an effects-slathered bass (and occasional, minimal keyboard melodies) is an unexpected combination, and one that causes the ear to gravitate toward the spacier, “weirder” sounds. The first track, “Eternal Signs,” begins with what sound like a few seconds of keyboard noodling, before Laswell launches into a strangely familiar melody (it’s close enough to David Bowie‘s “Warszawa” to become a truly torturous earworm) on the bass. And whatever array of pedals he’s playing through doubles his sound and slathers it in gently blurry harmonics, effectively surrounding Graves’s kit in a fog.
The second track, “Sonny Sharrock,” is where the drummer takes over, at least for a little while. His solo is skittery and loose, the hi-hat keeping a frantic pulse tempo (so fast it’s almost a hissing sound) as he bounces all over the rest of the kit, a tap here, a rattle there. Graves’s playing has a buoyancy that other free drummers’ work lacks. His energy is utterly unique, and while he’s not doing anything here that has the aggression he brought to his 1970s albums, it’s still a phenomenally human performance. Even if they’re not exactly playing together, Laswell is definitely influenced by what Graves is doing. His own playing is very exploratory, never settling into the dubby grooves that he’s best known for (and which he maintained when playing with another titan of ’60s free jazz, Rashied Ali, in the one-off trio Purple Trap, which also featured guitarist Keiji Haino).
The bass is entirely absent on “Autopossession”; it’s a nine-minute drum solo, a breathtaking and time-stopping experience for the listener, as Graves, accompanied only by what sounds like one of those Halloween laughing devices way in the distance (and fed through a filter), creates a rumbling, tribal trance-effect on the floor toms, periodically cutting loose with a fuller roll or some slashing cymbal work. As always, he avoids timekeeping, yet still manages to imply a tumbling, forward momentum. In the performance’s final minute, he begins to play a melody on a cymbal or bell that recalls Chinese ritual music. (It’s also worth noting that both “Autopossession” and the album’s final track, “Another Time,” feature the constant shimmer of a tambourine, a sound that seems like a deliberate nod to one of the most famous duo albums in free jazz, John Coltrane and Rashied Ali‘s Interstellar Space.)
Laswell doesn’t join “Another Time” until the five-minute mark, and he’s playing more slowly and atmospherically than Graves, who’s rattling the kit like a tin shed being shaken by a storm. Between the two of them, it’s your choice who to focus on; in a way, it’s like the disorienting effect brought on by early drum ‘n’ bass records, where the frantic breakbeats were counterbalanced by bubbling, meditative dub bass lines. But as the piece goes on, Laswell’s playing grows busier and busier until he’s matching up with Graves, bouncing around like a racquetball in a clothes dryer as the drums rattle endlessly on…and then, seemingly at a signal known only to himself, he slides back into the singsong-ish, dubby melody he played to signal his entrance, Graves lays down his sticks, the relentless tambourine rises in the mix one final time…and it’s over.
It’s hard to think of a precedent for Space/Time Redemption—it’s a collision of two sounds, two aesthetics, that on the surface couldn’t be farther apart. But at the same time, pairing Milford Graves with a more “traditionally free” bassist would probably have just resulted in an hour of flurrying clatter-and-boing, and been much less satisfying than this weird, dreamlike encounter.
Phil Freeman (courtesy of the Burning Ambulance website)
This is a glorious disc. Simply glorious. Milford Graves and Bill Laswell have been affable bedfellows and the percussion colourist’s and the bassist’s playing here is compelling on many levels. To start with there’s the sense of sharing the sheer physical thrill of the drum-and-bass interaction. That is particularly evident in the growl and rumble such as the fierce and brilliant improvisation of “Eternal Signs” that concludes the deeply reverent track “Sonny Sharrock” that, in turn, melts in the blue flame into the sub-atomic vibrations of “Another Space”; its frugal prelude and the outer sections that roar in the final dénouement of the song, enthralled in “Autopossession”, which shifts into the fourth, spectral dimension, and then swings back in the energy of the chart that suggests the energy and waveform that might have been captured in a particle accelerator rather than by the consoles in the sound-engineer’s booth. Common to all this is a sense of being fleet, but never breathless, with time enough for textures to tell.
At every turn you get the sense of the musicians flexing their improvisational muscles in the early part of the disc. There is a sense of the drummer and the bassist demonstrating just how much mind craft they could introduce into a composition built around the common elements of intuition and improvisation throughout the remarkable recording; the collision of these minds that very much occupies each other’s worlds in terms of mood and swing. Thus there’s a palpable delight in the rhythmically extravagant theme from which the first chart is fashioned and the drummer and bassist’s way with the dancing double-helical structures at once strong-jawed and supple. We are always aware of the re-entry of the body of the shard-like elements of the chart as they peek through the texture in different registers or reappears stood on its head, yet it’s never exaggerated as might sometimes be the case in the hands of lesser improvisers. And how much can Mr. Graves and Mr. Laswell dance—at least on drums and bass—throughout the introduction and body of “Another Space”, urged to life through the subtle dynamics, voicings, articulation and judicious ornamentation. A very different kind of dance reveals itself in the outro of this piece, a kind of musette in which Mr. Laswell takes a graver view of things in the sonorous drone effect contrasting delightfully with the tripping rattle and hum of Mr. Graves’ drums. The way these two musicians have considered the touch and dynamic of every phrase would suggest that these are improvisational readings that constantly impress with fresh ideas and details each time you hear them.
Even the apparently unassuming numbers such as the melodic waddling of the mid-section of “Autopossession”, the piece later gains a sense of intrigue as Milford Graves re-examines them from every angle, again bringing multifarious shadings to the music. And it all flows effortlessly—though I’m sure the journey has been anything but that. Highlights abound: in the murmuring of the snare towards the middle of the piece. This is followed by one of the most extraordinary rumblings of the tom toms and the bass drum I have ever heard, daring you to enter the world of Space/Time · Redemption as the grandiose sonorities of the bass become more and more withdrawn. The whispered intimacy extends into Mr. Laswell’s insertion of an ornamented figure into the sequence that follows. “Another Time” proves to be a masterclass in audacious playing, yet never burdening the melodic lines. In fact the effect here is truly spectacular. Are there any caveats? Fittingly there is a long silence before the song ends. Some might find that the song has a pulse that is a tad irreverent. To me this works precisely because the musicians tease so much out of each line. They have spiritual intensity that draws you ineluctably in without any of the musicians’ wilfulness. You can be in no doubt of the thought that has gone into this enterprise, from Milford Graves’ rumbling ideologies to Bill Laswell’s harnessing the power of the bass. Together these two musicians shine new light on improvisational music to mesmerising effect, all of which is captured by a warmly sympathetic recording and an engaging booklet. So let’s cherish this one.
Raul da Gama (courtesy of his Jazz de Gama website)