Pete Namlook & Bill Laswell

Psychonavigation 5

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Pete Namlook and Bill Laswell in the same studio together usually sounds better in theory than in execution. These two veterans have hosted hundreds of albums in their separate careers and they certainly possess volumes of experience, but there seems to be an element of apprehension as to what these two "should" or "could" do together. They bring texture, attitude, and lots of equipment, but rarely do they bring their aforementioned volumes of experience to the table. It's as if they're saving their best work for solo albums, and this is just a heavily decorated jam session with a record deal built in. "The Catalyst," the disc's opener, is a factory of pounding hydraulics and stray beams of light refracted off the ceiling and tensing up the shoulders for seven and a half minutes. It has the same, all-inclusive cluster of textures you'd find in an Orb album like Cydonia, but it's equally unfocused. The centerpiece of the album is "Cryosleep," a rich, four-part collection of textures and escapist ear-candy that collectively adds up to over a half-hour of music. It's a bit frustrating that the first 15 minutes are spent in such relative stillness, but for arguments' sake it makes the second half sound all the more accomplished. "Cryosleep Part 1 -- Preparation" is a giant florescent lightbulb buzzing for ten minutes, with some unsettling ambience rustling around and above the drone. Subsonic rhythms bubble up and shuffle alongside the occasional gongs and haphazard hand drums, and " Part 2 -- Running Into a Dream" builds conservatively outwards from there. As mentioned, however, it's at the halfway point when things start to get really interesting. "Part 3 -- Holy Man" stirs the attention with a little sci-fi soundbite by Vin Diesel out in front of the mix, launching the rhythm section into gymnastic clusters of groove, and "Part 4 -- Alien Particles" blossoms sideways into a green-skinned entity with cat's eyes and a silver flak jacket. It proves to be the most exciting passage of Psychonavigation 5, and a shame when the synthetics fade to a close. "Life Eternal" starts Laswell out on the bass for a curious closing theme, one that creates a slightly more melodic unrest and reprises some of the rhythm patterns heard previously. Add to this some floating ethers of unintelligible ambience, more movie quotes, a cavernous buzz, and a slow heartbeat maxed out on reverb, and the accomplished musicians are still probably done in time to have lunch. Psychonavigation 5 is far from being any sort of weak link in the FAX chain, but to have two prolific giants in the studio cause such little stir is, at best, a well-produced letdown.

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