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Bill Laswell: Invisible Design

AAJ Staff By

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Bill Laswell's primary role as producer on most of his recordings has historically overshadowed his role as musician and performer. He earned a notorious reputation for his fine work with musicians like Pharoah Sanders and Ginger Baker, though the end products of these collaborations have fairly been criticized for being over-produced. The characteristic Laswell sound is quite wet: heavy on effects and thickly textured. In rare moments Laswell has stepped out on his own as an instrumentalist, playing bass outside the groups he produces.

The new solo Laswell record, Invisible Design, marks one of these moments. Unfortunately it's not all that memorable. Like his very similar 1988 record Hear No Evil, the new release displays an excess of introspective redundancy. Laswell's compositions for solo bass on Invisible Design, remarkable in their simplicity, lie buried under layers of reverberant echo, synth textures, and effects. Unfortunately, Invisible Design prizes indulgent self-reference over outright musical content. Simple melodic lines end up shrouded in murky grayness, inevitably collapsing into muddled twiddling. This record, along with Laswell's previous solo work, suffers from a decided lack of clarity.

Track Listing: Black Aether; Commander Guevara; Oceans of Borrowed Money; Aisha; Night Air and Low Frequency; White Arc Spiral; Aghora.

Personnel: Bill Laswell: bass, electronics.

Title: Invisible Design | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Tzadik

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