Audio Active

The Way Out Is the Way In

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At the crest of the world fusion wave, the Japanese techno quartet Audio Active recorded this collaboration with zither player and guru Laraaji (introduced to Western ears by Roger Eno and Michael Brook). It is a strange collaboration, more denaturing than Brook's albums with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Then again, Laraaji is far from being a traditional player. His electronic zither recalls a spacy, new age keyboard at least as much as any "regular" playing . His laughter and words of advice are at the center of most of the nine pieces. Key sentences (about the importance of laughter, to feel yourself, and to "think cosmically") are looped, repeated, and echoed. That and the group's ability to groove effortlessly in medium tempos trigger deserved comparisons to Lee "Scratch" Perry. The music is laid-back, generally spacy, occasionally funky. That's the ground level. On the second floor listeners find a wide array of influences and samples, from soul-jazz and cosmic groove records to drum'n'bass and world music. On the third floor is Laraaji's personality, utterly sympathetic even if you find his comments lacking substance. Maverick singer/songwriter Bill Nelson contributes some snarling electric guitar to "Music & Cosmic (Feel Yourself)," while Roger Eno and Michael Brook appear in "Blooper's Dance Floor," a track they co-wrote with Audio Active's Masayuki Osada. The reprise of the opener, "New Laughter Mode," to close the album was unnecessary -- it sticks too close to the first version, but otherwise The Way Out Is the Way In makes a light and intelligent album, a lot of fun to listen and re-listen to.

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