After 30 years of creating supremely challenging, mind f*#king, ground-breaking if not earth-shattering music as both a top contending bass player AND producer (in more musical categories than Quincy Jones even knew existed); creating, carving, fusing, forging, morphing elements and genre's in a Petri dish that would make Dr. Frankenstein envious, when I read about this debut cd on Bill Laswell's newly-launched label, M.O.D. Technologies, of course my expectations were elevated. Therein lies the problem - when expectations are that high, rarely are they met.
Bill Laswell's penchant for dub and reggae synthesis' are well-known and well-plumbed, as he's released dozens of related cd's over the years, whether it be collaborations with Jah Wobble, his 'Trojan Dub' series, his dub-ambient excursions (including a Bob Marley ambient tribute), the 'Sacred System' and 'Dub Chamber' series, 'AfterMATHmatics', 'Invisible Design I', 'Roots Tonic' and even the Hebrew-themed 'Matisyahu' dub-toast release. Whew. He even anchored his astonishingly brilliant 'Tabla Beat Science' projects and various drum n' bass collections with sub-woofer-shattering dub bass. I love (almost) all of it, but here's my thing - do we really need more? I pose this question seriously.
Launching the label with this release is extremely anti-climactic, as it amounts to a well-produced (duh - it's Laswell) reggae album that sounds like virtually every third release on the Island label (then owned by upstart Richard Branson and Chris Blackwell) back in the early to mid 80's, LP's and 12" dub remixes (remember them?) by other reggae artists who found it tough to survive amid the New Wave movement of the time. There's nothing new on display, unfortunately - oh sure, for those who weren't around then this is great stuff, but for someone who's been following Laswell's tracks (no pun intended) for 30 years, this is retro-reggae-redux and little more. Don't get me wrong - it's not bad, not in the slightest, it's just nothing new, and I expect more from Bill + his cohorts, who rarely let me down.
Titling the cd 'Method of Defiance' was incredibly misleading as well - the first two releases were skull-f#@king Drum-N-Bass releases fused with contributions by jazz legends, noteworthy turntablists and avant-garde artists like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dave Leibman, John Zorn, Byard Lancaster and Buckethead, among others (read my review of 'Inamorata'), creating a bone-crushing hybrid incomprehensible to most listeners who could sit through the entire cd. This release has more to do with Marley, Steel Pulse, King Tubby, Matumbi, Black Uhuru, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Augustus Pablo and Gregory Isaac than its predecessors. Hence my frustration.
It still didn't stop me from ordering 'Incunabula', the remix instrumental follow-up release; at least here I know Las will shine both as producer and reconstructionist, something no one does better, not even DJ Spooky, though I love his work as well, and they're practically Brooklyn neighbors. In spite of my many grievances, if you're unfamiliar with the work of those mentioned above, grab this effort, you'll enjoy it. For jaded a*#holes like me, it's another story, we're always looking to have our front teeth kicked out by something massive. It's a burden... I'll give it 4 stars for the uninitiated, 3 stars for us jaded old warhorses who aren't ready to be put out to pasture just yet.