Method of Defiance: Dub Arcanum Arcandrum

Dub Arcanum Arcandrum

Dub is smoke without mirrors, a realm in which a single beat, bass line, or keyboard riff might jettison you in the orbit of another planet. It is an axis of spirit and tactic, a philosophy shaped through strategic distribution of energies. In the context of Bill Laswell’s Method of Defiance, the parameters of dub take on new valences of initiation, and throughout this album, refashioned from the project’s first two appearances on its namesake label, their pressures equalize across a raw spectrum of possibility.

The Scientist, a remixer of exacting standards and enmeshed execution, conducts three laboratory experiments. At the outer rims are his “One World Dub” and “One World Disorder Dub,” each a head nodding across the mind’s eye, of which every bloodshot vein is a river. Rooted in groove, even as they groove into roots, their magickal patterns serve us a steaming bowl of get into it. If one is a body, the other is its soul. On the exhale, that same body basks in the smoke of “Herb 4” with enough justification to fill a book of harmony.

Sonic pedagogue extraordinaire Mad Professor gives us the first of two takes on “Elijah’s Lament.” While his is a mirrored consciousness that plays with time like Legos, the other, by MRC Riddims (a.k.a. Oktopus and MRC) is a love letter to Krooklyn that fills our legs like sun the Hudson. It is a world unto itself, one where phantom selves dance until they sweat themselves out of their minds and back into our own. Sub Code, who hails from Morocco, gives us a rarefied, immediate version of “Do or Die.” It is a breath given meaning through faith in the evergreen conflict of populations. These last two are among a handful of one-way communiques, the others being Perdurabo 6’s “One World First Claim Version” (a necklace strung with plaster footprints and hung around a lion’s neck) and “Encode Armour Feed” by the isosceles Prefuse 73, whose embrace of Laswell’s prime currents is a match made in outer space and brought to earth for an all-too-brief visitation.

Dr. Israel is a master oarsman in these waters, rowing as he does with entire trees in his hands. His plunges into “Taykeovah” and “No Salvation” remind us that exploration kills in the name of self. Where one is melodic glass shattered and re-glued for strength, the other is a spider’s web unchained and repurposed for flight.

At the topographic endpoint, meditating on a mountaintop, is Laswell’s binary star. “Quantum Echo Apparition” renders his bass an elliptical entity, by whose hands the heart of dub is massaged to tenderness, while an “Entombment Dub” of the same cut frames darkness as a stroke that gives life without need for validation but the listener’s undivided attention.

Reverberation is rebirth. Dig it.

(For ordering information, visit M.O.D. Technologies here.)

Method of Defiance: Jahbulon


The first release from the namesake project of bassist Bill Laswell’s M.O.D. Technologies label, Jahbulon introduces a collective freed by evolving membership yet united by a common prayer: to move. In this incarnation, Laswell island-hops with fellow travelers Dr. Israel and (Garrison) Hawk on vocals, Bernie Worrell on keys, and Guy Licata on the percussive front line. Yet the beacon of this record is Hawk himself, who, true to name, soars above every soundscape with sharp vision and dives for the kill at the slightest hint of escape.

In this respect, “Patterns of War” speaks less of outward aggressions than inner protections. Its opening whistle, reminiscent of a bomb in freefall, sends up a shock of hip-hop particles, shot through with reggae afterburn. The latter bronzes the words, each a fist against oppression that turns mass destruction on its head until weapons fall out of its pockets in two equidistant piles. In the shadow of this difficult introduction, the little flame of “Salvation” flickers into a full-fledged conflagration of brotherhood. God is not only in the details, it seems to say, but also born from them. This is glory in Creation, a circulation of nature as father, mother, and child in one.

Singularity further prevails in “One World,” a central, affirmative palette. Its vocal fingerprints litter the canvas until portraits of a city, a borough, and its denizens take discernible form. In their hands, a book of knowledge reads: Whenever you are disillusioned by what happens down here, know that reality never ceases up there. Such is the message of “Do or Die,” the halting beats of which serve to emphasize its corporate surgery before retexturing into smoother down midway through.

Whether spiraling through the tightness of “Revolution” or sending listeners on missions of the heart in “No Justice,” splashing the inner ache of “Taykeovah” or looking beyond skin into the stealth groove of “Elijah’s Lament,” each song blasts its refusal to be held down, translating technology of the rich into aid for the destitute. A testing of faith by the genocide of global interests. A scriptural circle in which judgment is swift only for those unworthy to wield it.

Each of these urban zones acts as a reflection of the body and its genetic recitations—rituals forged in breath and semantics. Even the illustrative affirmations of “Herb is Burnin’” and “Diss Never” breed a certain invincibility of purpose. Worrell’s sparkle and shine are particularly salient at expressing the changes of tomorrows, even as they nibble on leftovers at the table of survival. No soul should have to fend for sustenance on a planet united against its own iniquities. But this is exactly what’s going on, and why we need to open our ears like the pages of a book. We must rise above the power of difference not between each other but within ourselves before we can recognize what we all share.

Blood, music, love.

(For ordering information, visit M.O.D. Technologies here.)

Method of Defiance: Phantom Soundclash Cut-up Method – One

Phantom Soundclash 1

Harmony of the spheres is dead. Say hello to harmony of the tesseracts. A group of embodied souls, each the temporary manifestation of an endless truth, has given rise to this multidimensional mandala. Systemic remixologist Dr. Israel, dancehall ambassador Garrison Hawk, P-Funk pioneer Bernie Worrell, Gambian myth-keeper Foday Musa Suso, percussionist Adam Rudolph, trumpeter Graham Haynes, saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, and drummer Guy Licata occupy its outer spectrum—a veritable band of bodhisattvas—while Bill Laswell mans the controls, his bass an anchor slung from an ancient Vimāna into the present.

The album consists of one 38-minute track called “Nebuchadnezzar,” a name conjuring buried secrets, unburied symbols, and, beneath all, a fluid skin shared by humanity and animality. Such is the vibe with which Worrell’s keyboarding paints a dream so tender and immediate that every tear it sheds produces another weeping eye. We are scraped into reality by a distant mechanical whir, one in which is sung all futures as if they were insects poised on the horizon’s mountainous tongue. Purification is the illusion by which they lash at anyone who would turn away. A charging rhinoceros of sound awaits those who remain, its horn tearing through the underbrush like a shark ready to breach its karmic enclosure and masticate enlightenment at the vector of its own cerebral cortex.

The ensuing beat is its signature. Like a chemical reaction without visible effect, it veils chaos with order. Suso’s kora comes as a voice of earth amid the stormy heavens, a bird of flesh and feather bound to metal, the frequency of which has a way of matching whoever chooses to listen. Haynes’s trumpet, meanwhile, is the trickster overhead, jumping from cloud to cloud in a matrix of its own design. But no matter the singularity grasped during the listening process, each instrument is but one star in a crop dusted with galaxies. For what should emerge from the smoke and thickness of being but a memory of organ and choir folded like an origami version of itself and glued into the pop-up book that birthed it.

Phantom Soundclash foregoes the lofty ideal of the mash-up as a blender switched to puree, favoring instead the chunky textures of a broken machine, the inputs of which yield discernible hybrids. This is music that treats its own skin as a tattooable surface, even as it grinds itself along an inkstone of modulation toward sacrifice.