Bill Laswell

Filmtracks 2000

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The Tzadik Film Music series was supposedly for those artists who composed soundtrack music for specific projects or directors. With the albums of John Zorn (whose soundtracks numbered ten volumes by late 2001), Fred Frith, Evan Lurie, Phillip Johnston, Frank London, and Ikue Mori, this has been the case. Listeners cannot be so sure with this offering by Laswell, which, despite its title, has no reference to a film, video, director, or cinema of any kind listed on its sleeve. The music "seems" cinematic, but only insofar as his music does anyway. The cast of characters is familiar enough: Ginger Baker, Aiyb Deng, Graham Haynes, Nicky Skopelitis, Jonas Hellborg, Jah Wobble, Bernie Worrell, Robert Musso, etc., and there are a few new ones, too: Karl Berger, Tata Guiness, and Omar Faruk Tekbilek. The music? A montage of Middle Eastern motifs, dub-heavy soundscapes, American West panoramas of intricate, floating guitar and bass, all strung together with loops, triggered as well as organic percussion, and ambiences and loops that hover around inside the music, giving it a feeling of being somehow associated with cinematic images -- or at least photographic ones. All of the pieces have names, such as "Oman," "Turf War," "Oum Al Bouaghi," "Deadly Haven," "Siren Song," "Comoro," "El Oued," etc. And while the Middle Eastern dub ethic feels right and grounded in a kind of musical knowledge from the inside, it is touched with the rarified air of postmodern exotica that plagues so many of Laswell's current releases -- remember his Celtic album (shudder)? But it is only touched, rather than drenched, by this. This is a pleasant enough listen, nice to have in the background or to play while getting ready to read, but as far as substantive, compelling listening, better leave that to the other composers in the series.

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