1/ Suspension (Laswell) 2.22 2/ Warcraft Triad (Buckethead) 9.15 3/ Skull Crack/Cathedral (Buckethead) 4.16 4/ Inferno (Buckethead,Laswell,Brain) 9.23 5/ Low Time Machine (Buckethead,Laswell,Brain) 4.16 6/ Stronghold (Laswell) 1.36 7/ Turbine (Buckethead) 6.45 8/ Nine (Laswell) 3.17 Originally recorded at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York and OTR, Studios, Belmont, California Engineered by Robert Musso, Oz Fritz, Bruce Calder and Matt Stein Assistant: Imad Mansour Conceived and constructed and remixed by Bill Laswell M.O.D. Technologies: Yoko Yamabe M.O.D. Digital Support: Dave BrunelleBill Laswell: bass, samples, loops, noises; Buckethead: guitars, noises; Brain: drums; John Zorn: reeds, voice; Mick Harris: voice; Yamatsuka Eye: voice.
2015 - M.O.D. Technologies Digital (USA), MODDS00012(FLAC, MP3)
Issued as part of M.O.D. Technologies' Incunabula Series of digital-only releases, Sound Virus features what the label calls “re-stored, edited, enhanced and remastered” versions of Praxis tracks from their early '90s albums Sacrifist and Metatron. Praxis stands alongside Bladerunner and PainKiller as one of Laswell's most brutal musical endeavors. Although the project's discography has its fair share of reasonably digestible moments (including a good chunk of 2008's brilliant Profanation [Preparation for a Coming Darkness] ), this eight-track collection offers the group's most uncompromising creations. This comes as no surprise considering that Sacrifist-era Praxis saw the band's core lineup (Laswell, guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia) joined by the likes of Mick Harris (PainKiller/Napalm Death/Scorn), John Zorn (PainKiller/Naked City) and Yamatsuka Eye (The Boredoms/Naked City).
As soon as the double bass drum fury kicks in on the Metalized opening track,“Suspension,” it is clear that Sound Virus will be uneasy listening. If you're able to work your way through the album's saxophone squeaks, high-pitched screams and other eardrum-pummeling noise, you'll marvel at Buckethead's otherworldly talents. At its strongest, Sound Virus demonstrates the magic possible when a seriously gifted guitarist is surrounded by – and is sometimes causing – caustic noise. To get a clearer picture of what to expect here, somehow imagine Vernon Reid jamming with N. U. Unruh – or simply check out the nine-minute “Warcraft Triad,” a track as skillful as it is unsettling. Elsewhere, Metal plays a big part in shaping the sinister “Skull Crack Cathedral” (colored by arcade-like squeaks and chirps) and the stomping “Turbine.”
While such intense experimentation makes for an intriguing listen, it's also nice to hear musicians of this high caliber simply kicking out some straightforward jams. That comes in the form of “Inferno,” which starts off with Buckethead delivering a blistering Hendrix vibe before the song flows into some funky bass/drum interplay, veers off into some Dub and finally shifts its main focus back to the guitar. This is followed by the mellow ambience of “Low Time Machine.”
With the breather complete, it's back to the slaughterhouse with the 96-second Grindcore/circular saw/John Zorn nightmare of “Stronghold.” The aural ugliness sprinkled throughout Sound Virus reaches its zenith on the closing “Nine,” which finds Zorn blaring away on sax over a blast of Thrash not unlike Arise-era Sepultura.
Praxis certainly isn't for everyone, but adventurous music fans will find plenty to appreciate on Sound Virus.
Joel Gausten (courtesy of his Joel Gausten website)
Sound Virus is actually a 'reconstruction' that sees Bill Laswell returning to the mid-'90s albums Metatron and Sacrifist, focusing on the core trio of Laswell, Buckethead, and Brain with some assistance from Yamatsuka Eye, John Zorn, and Mick Harris. The P-Funk contingent of Praxis is absent, as are the turntablists who have performed with them over the years, so you don't get those elements of the Praxis sound, but you do get a nice sampling of the rest. A heavy metal chug, scorching blastbeats, some dub/reggae, and a bit of Band of Gypsys-style jamming are laced with traces of Laswell ambience. The tracks have all been modified in some way. Some are edited, some are extended, and some have been mashed together. Certainly all of them benefit from a fresh remastering some 20-plus years later.
Sean Westergaard (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)
Sound Virus combines selections from the second (Sacrifist) and third (Metatron) studio albums of Praxis, featuring bassist Bill Laswell, guitarist Buckethead, and drummer Brain, along with inimitable contributions by John Zorn on alto saxophone and vocals by Yamatsuka Eye and Mick Harris. Both albums were released in 1994, during a particularly fruitful era for everyone involved, on the seminal yet ephemeral Subharmonic label. While such a description might lead one to treat the present compilation is merely that, it is in fact a reconstructed vehicle running on fresh cylinders. Not that fans won’t recognize enduring riffs from this eruptive supergroup; only that new fault lines will appear by the tectonic re-reckonings of producers and listeners alike. Tracks once separated by others find themselves melded in new biomechanical assemblages, while standalones emerge, nostalgia intact, in remastered clothing.
Three selections from Sacrifist indicate their mother context as arguably the edgier of the two albums, not least of all through the influences of Zorn, Harris, and Eye. Their juxtapositions not only of genres, such as they are, but also of atmospheres might seem audacious were it not for the inner logic of their grafting. Their placement is paramount. “Suspension” opens the skin, proceeds through several subcutaneous layers before nicking “Stronghold,” then lodges itself at last in the muscle of “Nine.” The latter track, originally billed as “Nine Secrets,” no longer has anything to hide, for it has stood the test of time. A masterpiece of the Praxis canon, it ends Sound Virus on a high note, flipping itself like a coin between industrial hell-scape (replete with Zorn’s spastic reed and Harris’s screaming) and tropical heaven (in which a squealing Eye swings whimsically from vine to vine). Here, as throughout, one encounters proof of the Praxis formula, solvable less through calculations of virtuosity than an unalterable dedication to every climate change. In the first Sacrifist throwback, for instance, initiatory transmissions of some other universe send out barest pulses via wormhole, indicating nothing of the onslaught about to ensue. The effect is not one of contrast or startlement, but rather of productive rupture that flags these audio signals as more than postmodern—they are posthuman.
At its most aggressive, Praxis plies a melodic arc, finding truth in the pain of things through self-awareness. And because Metatron deals with the Laswell/Buckethead/Brain nexus alone, its commitment to a center line is even clearer. Noticeable is the foregrounding of Buckethead’s guitar, an instrument of such versatility that it’s like listening to history in the making. Those familiar with his prolific solo work will recognize seeds of later albums such as Colma (“Low Time Machine”) and are sure to appreciate the anthemism of “Inferno.” There’s even a guitar-only collage, “Triad,” of which chameleonic shifts through metal, backwoods blues, and psychedelic freak-out distill themselves from the harder liquor of “Warcraft.” Again, what seems to be a thrash-oriented aesthetic cages a heart sustained by absolute kinship. One can hear the trio working toward something so unpretentious, it can’t help but blast satellites away with its catharses.
Laswell, for his part, pushes the cerebral groove quotient into the stratosphere, bringing in that exacting way he does a level of control to every head-nod drift. The elasticity of his playing in “Skull Crack/Cathedral” recalls the muddy jams of Primus, of which Brain was of course a key member in the latter half of the 1990s. The relationship between bassist and drummer is a tactile one throughout most of these tunes, and triangulates most memorably with Buckethead in “Turbine.” Cohesion abounds in all inward directions and renders this album’s title a most appropriate one. Like that strangely pleasant ache after a blood draw, you emerge knowing that, although something has been taken from you, a surge of survival has rushed in to take its place.
Tyran Grillo (courtesy of the ECM Reviews website)