Bill Laswell – Aspiration (Metastation)


Laswell may not be as prolific at the moment, the releases are slowing down to a few every year, but the quality remains in the output. ‘Aspiration’ is in his oeuvre of spiritually influenced musical statements. On this album Laswell is joined by a cast of luminaries: Zakir Hussain on Tabla, Turiya Alice Coltrane, Carlos Santana on guitar, Nicky Skopelitis, Jonas Hellborg, Bootsie Collins, Bernie Worrell, Jeff Bova and Pharoah Saunders. Included as well are samples from an interview by Toshinori Kondo with the Dali Lama and chants by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It is an example of how ancient practices and contemporary artistic practices meld to form a continuum rather than a preservation and replication it navigates the territory of future and fuses the past. Specifically there are elements of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Muslim musical forms strung together with Jazz and avant garde techniques. It is a polyfusion that is part of the contemporary landscape and is not unfamiliar to those for who the cultural barriers to expression have collapsed. Laswells present label Metastation looks like the lounge of a Yoga studio and it is in the LA ‘spiritual’ scene that this may be produced but it is other than flaky and the it is presented in a cover with a magnificent ‘painterly’ photograph of a Southern Californian seascape by John Baldessari which completes it as a work of art.

‘Pattabhi Jols’ is a twelve and a half minute tabla and trumpet jazz inflected number with low intermittent bass notes, understated by Laswell and accompanied at the end by a chant. ‘Bliss:The Eternal Now’ is Turiya Alice Coltrane on piano, Harp and Strings accompanied by Carlos Santana on guitar and reconstructed by Laswell in a fairly low key affair that plays the range of the harp and displays understated guitar moments and ends towards long sonic ambient moments. ‘Searching for you’ starts with Persian Ney flute and fairly crunchy electronics, before the bass onslaught with vocals and middle eastern vocal samples. Laswell builds a space with mixed cultural textures, meditation bells meet chants with his underlying bass attack. ‘The Hidden Garden/Nalma’ moves through some fairly ‘picturesque’ material with Laswells cast of thousands from a synthesiser beginning with Jeff Bova, it launches into violin and Oud moments with great drama and then it is a delicate pleasantries of lush ambiance. ‘Time’ is a Tibetan chant laden intro which moves into an ambient dub space taking Laswells Bass heavy in the mix it profuses well with the low chanting. It includes the trumpet of Toshinori Kondo and a brief Dali Lama sample on the nature of time. ‘Peace in Essaouira (for Sonny Sharrock)’ features Pharaoh Sanders trumpet and underlying soft percussion by Nick Skopelitis and Bill Laswell, this goes through a few parts, firstly mournful or reminiscing evoked trumpet to eventually experimental and playful.

As a whole the album is almost a smooth psychedelic expression but with the skill of dedicated seekers who have attuned their instruments to the eternal stories and weave delicate fabrics of contemporary versions of ancient traditions.



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