Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)

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Apart from an early experimental 12" that has little to do with the later records, Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) was the first release of producer Bill Laswell's Praxis project, which he conceived and constructed around mystery guitar virtuoso Buckethead. Beautifully packaged (fascinating artwork by James Koehnline, freaky photography by Thi-Linh Le, and rebellious liner notes by Hakim Bey), this disc presented a band of top musicians at their most creative: apart from Buckethead, there are P-Funkers Bootsy Collins (bass) and Bernie Worrell (keyboards), plus drummer Brain (aka Brian Mantia) and turntable wizard Af Next Man Flip (aka Afrika Babybam from the Jungle Brothers). From the searing heavy metal riffs that open the disc to the spaced-out noise collage that ends it, the band covers lots of territory: metal, rock, funk, hip-hop, jazz, noise intermezzos, back and forth, crossbred and interlocked. The first two tracks, "Blast/War Machine Dub" and "Interface/Stimulation Loop," change from heavy metal to funk effortlessly. The third, "Crash Victim/Black Science Navigator," turns from a breakneck-paced metal riff into a hip-hop scratching orgy without a second thought. "Animal Behavior" is certainly the most accessible track on the disc, relentlessly funky and featuring funny vocals by Bootsy. The second part of the track is a haunting ballad that points to Buckethead's later accomplishments on his solo release Colma. "Dead Man Walking," "Seven Laws of Woo," and "The Interworld and the New Innocence" are showcases for Buckethead's dangerous guitar shredding, alternating between majestic and breathless. "Giant Robot/Machines in the Modern City/Godzilla" prepares for the big showdown, with lots of mean guitar riffs standing against weird sounds and effects. The last track, "After Shock (Chaos Never Died)," then delivers an unusual outro by letting the rock-ish intro quickly dissolve into a strange sonic collage, featuring Worrell's Hammond organ improvisation augmented by heavily treated noises and sounds, scratches, and tape manipulations. In fact, the last track (which runs well over 15 minutes) may be the only thing that will put most listeners off, but in fact this track is the icing on the cake -- like the liner notes read, "Chaos Is Not Entropy...Chaos Is Continual Creation."

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