Barton Rage & Bill Laswell: Realm 1

Realm I

For this first installment of the “Realm” series of concept albums on the M.O.D. Technologies label, wherein artists are free walk their own paths even when those paths crumble from beneath their feet, Bill Laswell and Barton Rage combine heat sources to forge an ambient talisman that is sure to haunt you with its protections.

Hints of orchestras and long-playing melodies, each the ancestor of a solitary listener, learns the art of flotation right before us. Gloomy, perhaps, but only because darkness is sensed by the ears as light by the eyes. For in the darkness there is a sound which wilts at misinterpretation and blossoms when taken on its own terms. Barest hints of drumming flicker in and out of frame, while lower lines take shape as pure sonic reckoning, their compasses burrowing into skin unaware of their own mapping. A meditation made reality. This is “Mater.”

Clicking of cymbal and drum, an echo chamber that knows not the wrath of an open gate. Rather, it peers into the heart of things. The duo’s to-the-marrow methodology braids time signatures so tightly that the sun no longer reflects off them. A flash of song. An electronic insect attracted to pheromones emitted by throat and wrists. Laswell’s bass cannot help but lumber through the landscapes of its upbringing with sketchbook in hand. The confluence of machinery and sinews is the decoration, not the anchor, of this evolving tree, around which leaves dance in the wind like a child waiting for an embrace. This is “Waters of Mirage.”

Globular, uncertain arcs bow before a sacred dub altar, on which has been left offerings of star-bound digitalia. The signal is incomplete, its transmitter having broken eons ago in a moment of distress during some mission no one remembers. Synthesized trumpet breaths channel a chasm of death into automatic life, drinking in the scent of fortune to get away from the smoke. A pause before drum ‘n’ bass snakes shed their skins. A groovier test of faith through dance music for isolationists. This is “Triad Seer.”

A watery expanse larger than any ocean on Earth. A smooth undertow, amphibian and pliant. Funkier textures unfold wings of air, ephemeral yet alive. This is “Seraphim.”

A freer space ensues, prowling caves for want of ore. Weightless spaces intertwine with heavier drops of thought. This is “Beyond the Abyss.”

A melodic fractal, in the mode of guitarist Jeff Pearce, though with a murkier pulse. The finality here is heavy with cinema. This is “Nama.”

I haven’t been moved in this particular way since Mick Harris’s Somnific Flux, a 1995 collaboration with Laswell on Subharmonic. Such nostalgic threads also pull me back to Cypher 7’s Decoder (released the year before on Strata), bringing together past and future in a single, protracted blink. Let’s have more of this.

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