Saturday, April 11, 2020

Bill Laswell AGAINST EMPIRE New Album Release

The future of music arrived yesterday when Against Empire, the new Bill Laswell solo album, got its worldwide release.  I'm only making my second playback journey through it — far from full comprehension, about as far as a native Borneo tribesperson from understanding quantum physics.  This album seems both a postgraduate course in music exploration and a transdimensional travelogue into new, formerly unknown spaces, territories and landscapes carved out of sound.

The track list:

1. Golden Spiral
2. Tabu
3. Shadowline
4. Seven Holy Mountains

The running time is slightly longer than 60 minutes, conventionally speaking.  It can seem both much longer and much shorter, or timeless when external clocks are removed and the full immersion of presence and attention is engaged with the music.  You can ENTER HERE.

Speaking of linear and nonlinear time, it also seems that the end of Seven Holy Mountains connects with the beginning of Golden Spiral.  The former suggests Alejandro Jodorowsky's iconoclastic film, The Holy Mountain known to be an allegory on the art of Alchemical transformation.  Mount Analogue, a Gurdjieff influenced book by Rene Damaul is another Holy Mountain allegory of personal transformation.  For instance:

"One finds here, very rarely in the low lying areas, more frequently as one goes farther up, a clear and extremely hard stone that is spherical and varies in size—a kind of crystal, but a curved crystal, something extraordinary and unknown on the rest of the planet. Among the French of Port-des-Singes, it is called peradam. Ivan Lapse remains puzzled by the formation and root meaning of this word. It may mean, according to him, "harder than diamond," and it is; or "father of the diamond," and they say that the diamond is in fact the product of the degeneration of the peradam by a sort of quartering of the circle or, more precisely, cubing of the sphere. Or again, the word may mean "Adam's stone," having some secret and profound connection to the original nature of man. The clarity of this stone is so great and its index of refraction so close to that of air that, despite the crystal's great density, the unaccustomed eye hardly perceives it. But to anyone who seeks it with sincere desire and true need, it reveals itself by its sudden sparkle, like that of dewdrops. The peradam is the only substance, the only material object whose value is recognized by the guides of Mount Analogue. Therefore, it is the standard of all currency, as gold is for us."

Mount Analogue was one source for Jodorowsky's film.  Seven Holy Mountains sounds like the alchemical journey, climbing the mountain, expressed and translated as music.  One can mine the peradem, the imperishable stone of Self, there.  Feels even more effective when followed by Golden Spiral and another cycle through.  The music and sound design of Against Empire repeats cycles within cycles differently each time.

The idea of connecting the ending to the beginning to create an endless cycle or an M.C. Escher-like effect famously began in contemporary times with Finnegans Wake by James Joyce which ends in the middle of a sentence, yet continues with the beginning of the book.  Other writers have played around with this technique, most notably Vladimir Nabokov and Thomas Pynchon.  Laswell applies it to music extremely effectively.

Due to the timing of its release, I consider Against Empire as another occult response to the current crisis whether intended or not.  Its magical function was demonstrated to me pretty quickly via synchronicity.  After listening to the complete album for the first time yesterday, I picked up my book, Within A Budding Grove by Marcel Proust and saw this:

Convinced that the music to which I had been listening contained the loftiest of truths, I was trying to elevate myself as far as I could, so as to attain a comprehension of them, and was attributing to them, all that was best and most profound in my own nature at that time.

Against Empire sounds amazing!  I'm listening on my new Neumann KH 120 studio monitors which are very transparent, analytical and not at all flattering.  They let you know exactly what is there, a rich palette of multitimbral instrumentation and processing.  Expertly engineered by James Dellatacoma, the sound design by the production team employs extremely tasteful, varied and dynamic use of effects.  They architecturally design music environments that expand the known universe of sound.  The  mood created by the sound at the drum entry of Golden Spiral recalls Fourth World Volume 1: Possible Musics by Brian Eno and Jon Hassel if they had continued in that direction.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know what good production sounds like.

The remainder of this post gives a more detailed description of what you're in for should you accept this mission.  I copied and pasted it from the bandcamp page:

Over the course of three decades, visionary bassist/producer Bill Laswell has been one of the most prolific and restlessly creative forces in contemporary music, always a few steps ahead of the curve, EVOLUTION/REVOLUTION.

AGAINST EMPIRE, a new category of magical, electro/acoustic technology. Further research may shed a most revealing light on the development of sound storage in material culture.

AGAINST EMPIRE projects a hybrid activity, constantly evolving texture crashes against smooth, unfolding rhythms built around the solid and elastic drum foundations of four iconic drummers - Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Hideo Yamaki (Japan's top dummer) and Satoyasu Shomura (Japanese pop phenomenon). The legendary saxophoniost Pharoah Sanders, especially known for his radical collaborations with John Coltrane, versatile multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum, minimal contributions from the great Herbie Hancock on electric piano and the unmistakable touch of master percussionist Adam Rudolph.

AGAINST EMPIRE, an iconoclast offering of multi-directional movements .... avant-jazz, rock, dub, experimental, ambient, sub-bass and on and on .... a dream colonization, a bizarre image of paradise, an imagined quality of elsewhere, constructs of the imagination, essence of difference.

Nothing is True, Everything Is Permitted







Bill Laswell: bass, effects
Pharoah Sanders: saxophone
Peter Apfelbaum: saxophone, flute, keyboards
Herbie Hancock: electric piano
Jerry Marotta: drums
Chad Smith: drums
Hideo Yamaki: drums
Satoyasu Shomura: drums
Adam Rudolph: percussion

Created at Orange Music, West Orange, NJ
Engineering: James Dellatacoma
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studio, NYC
Photo by Toshiya Suzuki
Artwork by Yoko Yamabe @ Randesign
M.O.D. Reloaded: Dave Brunelle, Yoko Yamabe


1 comment:

  1. I just came across the album yesterday also through Napster and was immediately struck by Golden Spiral altho I will have to take some time with the whole album. Great complicated rhythms and sax remind me of freneticism of some of the jazz fusion of the 80s I'd hear on chicago radio.

    Great to hear your mention of Daumal. Analogue is a great book altho I have never read it through. Its good in parts like alain fournier or radiguet. I just watched Time regained which was consumed in parts also but the ending as the prior personalities saunter into the ocean was very moving.
    Perhaps the plague often reminds different generations of the same motifs. Glad to hear we are perusing some of the same authors. I'd recommend Wong Kar Wei's work also especially in the mood which seems tailor made. Stay well, stay clear.