Watch Blixt (trio of Bill Laswell, Raoul Björkenheim and Morgan Ågren) perform live at New Horizons Film Festival in Poland.
Many people who’ve heard the name Bill Laswell may have forgotten that his main axe has been the plugged-in bass, not the studio. With both hats, Laswell’s sonic vocabulary has transcended so many styles and idioms, he is without peer when it comes to not only production work but overall musical design and playing. Which is what makes Mean of Deliverance sound so radical. Here’s his first acoustic solo bass recording. Laswell’s excursions float somewhere between the meditative and simple folk material.
Laswell’s jazz cred is solid but only shows its face here and there as he riffs and improvises on the melodies he devises. The flowing “A Dangerous Road” is anything but. Built around a basic progression, this medium-tempo song allows for space and room as Laswell’s impeccably recorded bass roams, pauses, returns to the melody. “Ouroboros” carries the gait of a surfer tune along the lines of “Pipeline”, the song’s lilt furthered by Laswell’s adept use of harmonics and string pops, single lines wafting over the bottom not unlike the breeze or the sound of a car driving by an open window late at night. This all seems possible because Laswell can make magic in the studio but also because of his Warwick Alien fretless four-string acoustic bass guitar. From start to finish, Means of Deliverance has no overdubbing; perhaps an occasional loop with digital pedal.
The modal “Bagana/ Sub Figura X”, along with using a sample of an Ethiopian stringed instrument, presents Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw, her high pitch moving around and around Laswell’s ostinatos and filigrees like water over rocks in a stream. The album’s centerpiece of calm, “Aeon”, proffers reassurance and more floating lines.
If there’s a downside to Means of Deliverance, it has to do with stretches that sometimes sound more like sketches, the material mirroring itself from track to track. But Laswell also communicates real life here, full of memories and incredible ease and comfort.
-John Ephland for Downbeat Magazine
Musical Gnosis: Bill Laswell – Means of Deliverance
Bass is the Place
Science tells us an individual’s growth receives evolutionary instructions through the activation of different stages of the DNA code found in each cell. It’s been suggested that higher modalities of consciousness result from uncovering and activating further into the DNA code. Another, maybe less scientific theory, states that all of one’s experiences affect and modifies that person’s DNA code so that their children will have those experiences passed on to them even if at a subtle and deep level. If the World Body of Music has a DNA code of some sort, then Bill Laswell’s new solo acoustic bass album, Means of Deliverance, represents the latest transmission of instructions from that code. The title gives it away.
Means of Deliverance presents the musical spaces of a seasoned traveler. Laswell travels both in the sense of going to and becoming immersed in various global cultures, and as a musical explorer of the intrepidly eclectic persuasion. When we worked with Yothu Yindi in Australia, leader/shamen Mandawuy Yunupingu called him ” the Man from Nowhere. ” I would call him one of the Invisibles.
Two writers at The New York City Jazz Record included Bill Laswell’s Means of Deliverance among their picks for Albums of the Year. Download back issues of the gazette here.
The very essence of music, and music as communication, has to be folk—the people’s music. The original roots music, folk can be defined as sound without pretensions and artificiality. Such is the acoustic bass recording by Bill Laswell. These nine solo pieces, plus one duet with singer/producer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw (Laswell’s wife), bridge the folk musics of Laswell’s birthplace in Kentucky with his wife’s continent of Africa. Known for his various collaborations with an almost endless list of musicians that include the likes of Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Zakir Hussain, and Raoul Bjorkenheim and explorations into the genres of dub, ambient, avant-dance, hip-hop, punk, and his more recent African music, Laswell distills varying sounds into revealing their fundamental essence.
Laswell plays a 4-stringed Warwick Alien fretless acoustic bass throughout. It gives his sound a warmth and makes each piece attractive. He draws attention to the simple nature of each piece with repetitive lines and minimal use of overdubs and drones. He can set off a buzzing tone that acts as a set table for his lyrical meal on “A Dangerous Road” or overdub a western (almost Ennio Morricone) theme with “Ouroboros.” Laswell draws a bluesy feel throughout. He connects American folk and blues with African music on “Epiphaneia,” and “Bagana/Sub Figura X” where Gigi chants from an ethereal mountain top.
by Mark Corroto for All About Jazz
It’s a rare bassist who can turn out a true solo recording that’s as full-bodied and gripping as the music he makes in the company of others. But Bill Laswell—one of the most prolific and inventive masters of the bass guitar to come along in the past few decades—proves with Means Of Deliverance that he’s more than capable of pulling off that feat. Playing an acoustic Alien bass manufactured by Warwick, Laswell is at turns lyrical, assertive, experimental and even orchestral on these 10 tracks. Each sports its own personality (one features an ethereal vocal by Laswell’s wife, Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw), but what makes Laswell’s creations that much more alluring is his knack for coaxing sounds from his bass that—while retaining all of the instrument’s natural depth—often sound so, well, alien, that they could emanate from another instrument all together.
by Jeff Tamarkin for Relix
Blixt by Raoul Björkenheim/Bill Laswell/Morgan Ågren and Laswell’s solo acoustic record Means of Deliverance were both included in Mark Keresman’s “Baker’s Dozen Best CDs of 2012” in Icon magazine.
Podcast 313 of Straight No Chaser – A Jazz Show contains conversation with Laswell about Means of Deliverance and upcoming projects, as well as musical selections from Laswell’s extensive oeuvre.
Bill Laswell talks music and philosophy with “Route 66” on WRUW here.
Bassist and producer Bill Laswell can always be counted on to come up with something he’s never done before, which is pretty impressive when you consider what a wide range of things he’s done over the course of a wildly peripatetic career spanning several decades. His latest unprecedented project is an album of tracks for unaccompanied acoustic bass guitar. As one might expect, it’s strange and thoroughly lovely; sometimes he multitracks and sometimes he adds subtle effects, but for the most part his bass is left to stand alone with only his compositional and improvisational skill to hold your attention. One especially nice track features vocals from Laswell’s wife, the Ethiopian-born Gigi Shibabaw. Very highly recommended.