Nicky Skopelitis

Next to Nothing

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Next to Nothing was the first solo album by guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, long a member of Bill Laswell's "stable" of musicians and one who contributed a great deal to the unique sound that Laswell developed during the late '80s. The disc, in fact, is somewhat indistinguishable from any number of Laswell-produced albums from around that time, including those of drummer Ginger Baker and guitarist Robert Musso. Which isn't to say that the recording doesn't have its own charms. The wonderful violin and oud virtuoso Simon Shaheen is onboard, giving the Middle Eastern-tinged pieces some solid authenticity. His violin is offset by that of Fred Frith, who takes the lead on pieces that are more blues- and folk-oriented. That divide between Mediterranean exotica and down-home country and blues is the main territory here and makes for some very attractive listening. Skopelitis disdains pyrotechnics, preferring to submerge himself in the music, but wields a remarkably sure hand, providing rich color and accents. Baker's typically heavy drumming may seem leaden to some, but provides both a compelling thrust and enough bedrock to anchor compositions that might otherwise appear a bit on the fluffy side. There's a general laid-back atmosphere here (though the final cut, "Omens," has a nice, edgy undertone) that can draw dangerously near a kind of new agey sensibility, but by and large Skopelitis avoids this pitfall. Fans of Laswell's Hear No Evil will find similar enjoyment here.

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