Okay, now this is pretty unexpected - enough so that after a couple of songs I had to look things up and make sure it wasn't an album by a completely unrelated artist of the same name. No one from the past few albums other than Bill Laswell is involved, and thus it seems to be an experiment in ambient techno that's credited as a Praxis album just because Laswell decided it should be one. It also turns out that the year before this album came out, 1984
, an EP by Laswell project Material that was also
anomalously electronic-based, was reissued as a Praxis release. Um... Huh.
Well, regardless as to whether an ambient techno album that's mostly performed by one member of the band should actually be in the Praxis discography, it is in fact a pretty good ambient techno album. I'm defining it specifically as ambient techno because there's a certain chilliness in common with such albums as Aphex Twin
's Selected Ambient Works 85-92
, but there are drum n' bass rhythms that frequently crop up too, as do tracks that are pure ambience (the eerie "Throes Of Rasputin") or take some influence from David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life In The Bush of Ghosts
("Viral Sonata"). The album's most playful moment is "Sunshine", a d'n'b collage that keeps sneaking in snippets of late 90's alt-rock radio staples (I spotted "Everything Zen" by Bush, several tracks from Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
, and what I'm pretty sure was the intro to "Ain't My Bitch"
, and there might be more buried in there). Not a very representative album for their usual sound, but a pretty interesting album in it's own right.
Meldt, Electric Soil, Sunshine, Viral Sonata #69
In 1996, Bill Laswell, Buckethead and Brain were joined by turntablists Mix Master Mike and phonosycographDISK for a mostly improvisational live set in Warsaw, Poland. The results were released as a Praxis album a year later. It seems like it would have been a cool concert to be at: watching the musicians come up with these grooves on the spot and hearing it all on a good soundsystem was probably entertaining for the audience. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily translate to a good album, and some of what was probably exhilarating in a live setting starts feeling a bit directionless.
Admittedly part of the issue is that I guess I'm not huge on turntablism. That is, I don't have a lot of experience with it, but I find I like turntablism better when it's an element of a song, not the focus of it - and here a lot more emphasis is put on Mix Master Mike and phonosycographDISK's contributions than anything else. 20 minute opener "Initiation" is almost nothing but a turntable showcase, and elsewhere the basic formula is Brain and Laswell playing a funky but repetitive groove for the DJ's to scratch over. The main exception is "Saturn", which seems to be the only pre-written piece and sounds a lot more like their work on Metatron
. Maybe you'd get more out of this album if you love turntablism though, and I guess it's saying something for their track record that the worst thing I've had to say about a Praxis record so far is "That sounded kind of cool, but I'll probably never listen to it again".
Saturn, Fifth Element