Bill Laswell

Oscillations

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If drum'n'bass hadn't come along in the early '90s, bassist and producer Bill Laswell would probably have had to invent it. In retrospect, it seems like it was created by some benevolent dancehall god with Laswell specifically in mind -- the lazily loping, reggae-inflected basslines, the double-speed breakbeats, the faint aura of menace that always seems to lurk in ganja-clouded obscurity behind the groove, all of these are elements that come together perfectly in Laswell's art and persona. Oscillations was not his first foray into the drum'n'bass art form, but it was his first album-length drum'n'bass project, and he approaches it in just the way one would expect: by wedding basslines so simply perfect they could make one cry to the hardest beats he can get his hands on, all of them cranked up to about a million bpm, then layering everything with jazzy flute (" Faktura"), sinister keyboard washes ("Third Stage Navigator"), or exotic found-sound (like the Tibetan throat singing on "Digitaria"). The album's center of gravity is "Extinguisher," which consists of nothing more than a bassline and incredibly dense and complex percussion -- it's a masterpiece of tightly controlled funk, which somehow isn't the contradiction in terms one would think it would be. Highly recommended.

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