Mike Ladd's much anticipated followup to last year's highly praised In What Language reunites him with his collaborator on that project, keyboardist Vijay Iyer. What knocks this outing into unexpected sonic originality may be their co-collaborator, Guillermo E. Brown. Best known for his work with the David S. Ware Quartet and contributions to projects by Matthew Shipp and DJ Spooky, Brown released Soul At the Hands of the Machine, an atmospheric densely layered humid slab of electronica, three years ago. His remarkable ear blows back the walls of sonic possibility while adding his crisp, busy drum work.
The project was inspired in part by Petrine Archer-Straw's book of the same title that explored the ramifications of black American artists' influence on the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920's. With less text than his previous outing, Ladd often lets the band tell the story. A tape loop of an African stringed instrument mingles with Brown tapping the drum sides, suddenly morphing into a big-bassed urban stroll. Andrew Lamb (on tenor) and Roy Campbell, Jr. (on trumpet) chat over the back fence. Iyer hits his spindly high note ostinato chords, while Bruce Grant's tape loops haunt the outro. Driving synth bass and Brown's percolating drum line set the stage for Iyer's understated solo on "The French Dig Latinos, Too.
A loose, lovely dreamscape operates around "In Perspective. Iyer's gentle musings feel concrete poking around the swirling space sounds and loops. Campbell plays low down muted, and Lamb insinuates flute. Ladd recites, with voice processed, on "Shake It, the thick sound waves flowing and panning. Thick unyielding electro beats underscore Ladd on "Worldwide Shrinkwrap. An apparently tape-looped bassoon sets the pace on "Back at Ya, Campbell and Lamb improvising through the burbling machines.
"Blonde Negress has Ladd reciting again, with Lamb double-tracked and snaking around Brown's beats and the electronica. A textural ballad, "Sam and Milli Dine Out, features Iyer's judicious piano.
Mike Ladd continues to broaden the possibilities in collaboration between hip-hop, electronica, jazz, and spoken word. Negrophilia adds soundscape artist to his resume.
Personnel: Mike Ladd (Vocals & Programming); Vijay Iyer (Piano, Organ & Synthesizer); Guillermo E. Brown (Drums
and Electronics); Andrew Lamb: (Winds) Roy Campbell: (trumpet); Bruce Grant: (Tape Loops)