Sunday, 5 August 2018

Material ‎– Hallucination Engine (1994)

Style: Dub, Acid Jazz, Experimental, Downtempo, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Axiom

Tracklist:
01.    Black Light
02.    Mantra
03.    Ruins (Submutation Dub)
04.    Eternal Drift
05    Words Of Advice
06.   Cucumber Slumber (Fluxus Mix)
07.   The Hidden Garden / Naima
08.   Shadow Of Paradise

Credits:
Bass – Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, Jonas Hellborg
Drums – Sly Dunbar
Electric Piano, Organ – Bernie Worrell
Ghatam – Vikku Vinayakram
Ghatam, Congas, Percussion – Aiyb Dieng
Guitar, Sitar, Baglama – Nicky Skopelitis
Kanjira, Tambourine – Michael Baklouk
Ney – Jihad Racy
Oud – Simon Shaheen
Sampler, Programmed By – Bill Laswell
Synthesizer – Jeff Bova, Nicky Skopelitis
Tabla – Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Violin – Shankar, Simon Shaheen
Voice – Fahiem Dandan, Liu Sola, William S. Burroughs
Zither – George Basil
Arranged By – Bill Laswell
Mastered By – Howie Weinberg
Producer – Bill Laswell

Some albums come along without any real intention other than to be what the are yet, without any fanfare, completely change the possible ways music can be perceived, felt and created by those lucky enough to hear them. Today's Rediscovery is one such album, a record that wasn't just ahead of its time when it was released in 1994; it seems still ahead of its time today, more than twenty years later.  
Initially a loose collective of musicians that, with bassist Bill Laswell and keyboardist Michael Beinhorn at its core, centered around New York City's avant-edged downtown scene, by the time of Hallucination Engine the No Wave group had really become synonymous with Laswell alone, having moved through everything from disco-tinged R&B (with singers Nona Hendryx and a very young Whitney Houston) and jazz-rock fusion to reggae-tinged funk and non-idiomatic free improv.  
But while Laswell's increasing interest in music from many cultures had already begun to surface, with Hallucination Engine he brought together a disparate bunch of musicians—from saxophone giant Wayne Shorter, P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins, Indian violinist Shankar and tablaists Zakir Hussain and Trilok Gurtu, to in-demand Jamaican session drummer Sly Dunbar, P-Funk/Talking Heads alum keyboardist Bernie Worrell, longtime Laswell collaborator, guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, virtuosic electric bassist Jonas Hellborg and Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs—for an album that truly transcended all attempts at classification.  
With a total of twenty participants, Hallucination Engine merged music that might have seemed incompatibly disparate into a seamless whole that makes nothing less than perfect sense; not fusion as the term has come to be accepted, but fusion in the truest sense of the word as, with Laswell at the helm providing bass, beats, loops, samples and overall direction, the album's eight compositions prove that music can, indeed, be a universal language without borders or stylistic definers.  
Case in point: "Cucumber Slumber (Fluxus Mix)," where the funkified tune from Mysterious Traveller (Columbia, 1974)—one of the best tracks from one of the best albums by fusion supergroup Weather Report, co-founded by Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous in 1971—is sampled and, expanded with thick layers of tabla, drum kit, other percussion and additional composed sections. The end result is something that actually realizes Zawinul's increasingly fervent desire to turn a group initially predicated on impressionistic music and improvisation of the most electric kind into one whose primary raison d'être was to be a pan-cultural mélange; the only difference being that Laswell actually achieve that goal far more successfully.  
That's not to suggest a negative connotation for the now-departed Zawinul; only that, because he was as much a performer as he was a conceptualist, his work was inherently driven by the stylistic and sonic parameters of his own playing. With Laswell as much a producer as he is a performer, his voracious musical interests could be realized on a much broader soundstage, and with Hallucination Engine Laswell created quite possibly the most expansive, stylistically unfettered and culturally unbound music he'd ever made...or, perhaps, would ever make.  
Few musicians would be able to conceive the bringing together of original music of near-cinematic expanse with one of John Coltrane's most memorable ballads, "Naima." Or, in collaboration with Shorter, create a piece like the album-opening "Black Light" that—bolstered by Skopelitis' shimmering chords and an unshakable groove driven by Laswell and Dunbar—revolves around Shorter's relatively simple but absolutely perfect melody and equally spare and considered improvisational foray.  
Hallucination Engine never achieved the popular acclaim it truly deserved, but those familiar with this wonderful cross-pollination of jazz, funk, dub, Indian music and more into something truly greater than the sum of its many parts were forever changed by Laswell's innovative vision. Hallucination Engine still feels ahead of its time 21 years after its release, rendering it the quintessential Rediscovery. 
John Kelman / All About Jazz 

The Durutti Column ‎– The Return Of The Durutti Column (1980)

Style: Abstract, Indie Rock, Post-Punk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Factory

Tracklist:
01.   Sketch For Summer
02.   Requiem For A Father
03.   Katharine
04.   Conduct
05.   Beginning
06.   Jazz
07.   Sketch For Winter
08.   Collette
09.   In "D"
10.   Lips That Would Kiss
11.   Madeleine
12.   First Aspect Of The Same Thing
13.   Second Aspect Of The Same Thing
14.   Sleep Will Come
15.   Experiment In Fifth

Credits:
Guitar – Vini Reilly
Bass – Pete Crooks
Drums – Toby
Electronics [Switches] – Martin Hannett
Engineer – Chris Nagle, John Brierley
Producer – Martin Hannett

It would be hard to think of an album less in line with the majority of Factory's output in the late 70s than The Return Of The Durutti Column. The Column, were originally put together as a ‘proper’ band by Factory founders, Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus. But by the time this album became fact (hoho) Wilson’s wilful disposition had seen to it that it was just guitarist Vini Reilly who held onto the name. Oh, and a producer by the name of Martin Hannett. 
Hannett’s idiosyncracies are well documented. His bullying and cajoling of Joy Division to invest in electronics was the tip of the iceberg. The deeply personal vision of this troubled man only found voice when he sat behind a mixing desk. Having mined the possibilities of digital delay on Unknown Pleasures, he saw, in Reilly, a fellow traveller who could indulge his passions for more abstract fare. 
Reilly himself was a devoted student of the six stringed kind of ambience that had more to do with the krautrock stylings of Ashra’s Manuel Gottsching than anything that emerged from a Detroit garage. This was (originally) an album of singularly pretty instrumentals, drenched in reverb and chiming in some kind of delicate, yet still somewhat chilly imaginary space. 
The two men worked as co-musicians on this project, and it was hannett’s synth washes underpinning Reilly’s arpeggios that anchored the work which in future years become more ethereal and less rooted in grim Noerthern reality. 
The Return a bloody-minded contradiction of everything Factory stood for at that time. As if to underline its refusal to sit happily with its playmates, initial copies came housed in a sandpaper sleeve that would rub horribly against its neighbours: A situationist trick that, while as arch as the band’s name (appropriated from the Spanish civil war), still signalled Hannett and Reilly’s extreme faith in their vision. Hannett’s wayward nature would prove his undoing, while Vini merely kept on spiralling into some crystaline alternative universe. The Return is a perfect meeting of minds…
Chris Jones / BBC Review

Microdisney ‎– Everybody Is Fantastic (1984)

Style: Pop Rock, New Wave
Format CD, Vinyl
Label: Cherry Red

Tracklist:
01.   Idea
02.   A Few Kisses
03.   Escalator In The Rain
04.   Dolly
05.   Dreaming Drains
06.   I'll Be A Gentleman
07.   Moon
08.   Sun
09.   Sleepless
10.   Come On Over And Cry
11.   This Liberal Love
12.   Before Famine
13.   Everybody Is Dead

Yes, I agree that this is a five star album. The vocals are stunning, the lyrics deeper than nearly any in rock history. That's not hyperbole. Cathal Coughlan doesn't deliver a single tossed off line. Every line has depth and meaning, and show an almost frightening insight into what it means to be human. And the music provides just the epic grandeur the lyrics deserve. This disc is Sean O'Hagan's crowning achievement as a musician. But what frustrates me is that I'm not a music critic, nor do I want to be. But I do know this is a life-changing work of art and to hear some informed insights as to why that might be would be very welcome. I've been forced to the conclusion that Microdisney and Cathal's later work with the Fatima Mansions, as well as solo, were wilfuly ignored because, at some level, we're frightened by what he had to say. It's always perfectly expressed and his conclusions are not optimistic. In both miniature encounters and sweeping overviews, he has painted a picture of our civilization in the process of a collapse both irreversible and deserved. No one likes confronting this brutal truth. So maybe if we ignored Coughlan he'd go away. And so, it appears, he has. But that doesn't make what we see in the mirror he held to our face any less true. It boggles my mind that there are those out there who'd endow a selfish, abusive blowhard like Jim Morrison with the title 'poet', when the real thing was blazing before our eyes for nearly two decades. Rather than look straight at what Coughlan's visionary power and gift of expression showed us -the ugly truth - we swooned over him and those like him. The only lyricist who comes close to Cathal Coughlan was Ian Curtis of Joy Division. He saw the same reality and made the informed decision to end his life.
Ted Lesser / AllMusic