Personnel: Bill Laswell (bass guitar).
Recording information: Orange Music, West Orange, NJ.
Quite literally, Means of Deliverance is unlike any previously released Bill Laswell date. Issued on his own Innerhythmic label, the set features Laswell playing the Alien, a fretless acoustic bass by Warwick; an instrument he's never recorded with before. It also marks another first: the set is the debut production by his wife, vocalist Gigi Shibabaw (who sings on one cut). These ten pieces, while are all very different from one another, offer an intimate, immediate, and very creative hearing of Laswell, who sounds more engaged as a player than he has in some time. Some of these pieces contains songlike qualities. "A Dangerous Road" maintains a seemingly constant theme like a lyric line, though in truth, it drops out to be replaced by other interferences as a drone hovers in the backdrop. "Ourobouros" is a darker-tinged theme, where single strings evoke separate repetitive melodics, while played harmonics offer rhythmic counterpoint even as another, almost moaning sound shimmers in the distance. "Aeon" has almost meditative qualities in its minimal presentation, using restrained harmonies and drones, yet it remains quite musical and becomes more animated as it goes on. Laswell uses a buzzing technique on some strings to simulate the drone of a dousson goni. He multi-tracks his bass using different tonalities to affect a hinted-at lyric space between them, all the while asserting others. The dividing line in the set is "Bagana/Sub Figura X," featuring Gigi. Her voice, with its otherworldly swooping and soaring, takes on a deep, blues-like character and that of a muezzin in an instant; Laswell paints the foreground and backdrop with deep tonal runs and middle-register syncopations, all the while using implied drones to complement the real ones real ones shimmering underneath. "Epiphaneia," evokes the spirit of John Lee Hooker's earthy droning blues in its opening statement, while the bassist plays around one of his low end pluck and improvises on the theme throughout to get both inside that sound and outside its sphere. Certainly it's true that on the surface a solo acoustic bass recording may seem limited in scope and appeal. But the opposite is true. This is the sound of Laswell the musician fully engaged, creative, playful, and focused. His vast experience with world music traditions is displayed in his playing; he blurs boundaries between folk traditions both Eastern and Western, while getting to the common root of them all. On Means of Deliverance, Laswell is quite literally in direct communication with his Muse. ~ Thom Jurek
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