Bill Laswell

Hear No Evil

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AllMusic Review by

On Hear No Evil, Bill Laswell attempts to fuse his love of Eastern musical forms and textures with the tonality and sensibility of the Western world. The result is a harmonious though rather benign combination, with much of the trappings of new age music. The album title can be taken at face value; there is no danger in sight. Mostly, the instrumentalists mesh perfectly in a pastoral blend that never drifts far from its harmonic center. Percussionists Zakir Hussain (tabla) and Aiyb Dieng (talking drums) produce the bulk of the rhythm and guitarist Nick Skopelitis and violinist Shankar weave pleasant, droning melodies around Laswell's rubbery bass playing. The only discord comes with "Assassin," an ineffective attempt at dark, throbbing funk. Still, the track serves as a good model for Laswell's approach. In this case, the West wins. Skopelitis delivers some banal rock licks over a beat that's not nearly as heavy as it might aspire to be. A mixture of tabla and talking drums makes its way into the music's pauses, providing an Eastern undercurrent, and Shankar lends a wordless vocal to the texture. The most successful track is the closing "Kingdom Come." The introduction highlights the group's percussion trio; Hussain is even allowed a captivating tabla solo, approaching his instrument like a drum kit. For once, the musicians are allowed some room to roam, and they delve into the beginnings of an engaging, improvised dialogue. While the fusion elements present on Hear No Evil may have seemed groundbreaking during the late '80s, the passing of time has not been so kind. Laswell's compositions take few risks, requiring the instrumentalists to pull more of the weight but, unfortunately, they remain too subdued.

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