(MOD Reloaded/Redeye Worldwide)
Can music itself be wise, or just the people who create it? Can it perhaps impart wisdom? Certainly some profundity is layered into this album’s compositions, choice of players, improvising and production, so that, while being breathtakingly innovative, it also feels mysteriously ancient. Ever questing, composer/bassist Bill Laswell has come up with an opus that in some ways is an heir of Panthalassa, his 1998 remix of some of Miles Davis’s electric music. Indeed Herbie Hancock is among the contributors here, his flickering electric piano dancing amid the enchanted forest of percussion textures.
Pharoah Sanders is here too, the great saxophonist’s vast sound spreading some of that sense of wisdom. Then there’s multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum and Laswell himself, with his love of a bass sound that seems to swell the diameter of your speakers. But, as vital as all those contributions are, Against Empire is also a celebration of drums and percussion. Laswell has assembled four quite different kit drummers (including Jerry Marotta and Chad Smith) and brilliant percussionist Adam Rudolph, so the music’s surface is in constant flux – whether tumultuously so or as peaceful as a lake.