Exposé Online banner

Masahiro Shimba / Bill Laswell — Dubopera
(M.O.D. Technologies , 2015, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-02-23

Dubopera Cover art

This is far from the first time that Classical opera music has been adapted for modern ears, but it is not simply Pagliacci with a disco beat. Producer Bill Laswell has teamed up with Japanese tenor Masahiro Shimba and a host of guests to give us some rather eccentric adaptations of well-known operatic pieces. I’m not a huge opera fan, but neither am I a hater, and I’m always intrigued by this kind of cross-genre collaboration. First off the bat is “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, which starts out with piano and electronic noises before the string section comes in with slow-moving chords and an elegiac mood. Very quietly, some echoed snippets of singing sneak in, then a loping rhythm starts up with a spaced-out dub feeling. Shimba enters for real about three minutes in, backed by strings similar to those at the beginning. As his last notes echo into infinity, squiggly electronics take us into the second half of the piece, kind of a cross between Mwandishi and Sly & Robbie (Sly Dunbar does appear as one of the drummers). This slips smoothly into a piece called “Moon,” the source of which is uncredited, but it sounds like Shimba is singing in Japanese. The dramatic and slow-moving strings, combined with electronics, provide the majority of the backing, and it serves as an interlude before the percussion and drums reappear for an arrangement of “Tonight” from West Side Story. If you’re afraid of some of the tropes of dub music, fear not – there’s not a lot of that kind of choppy editing or reverb-echoes. The melding of different musical styles is fairly seamless: Dubopera is basically a fusing of jazz and electronics with some operatic source material. Long stretches of music go by without any sign of Shimba, but that’s certainly not due to any shortcomings in his voice. It’s powerful without going overboard on the vibrato, and provides a solid focal point when he’s in the mix. Other sources include Bizet’s Pearl Fishers and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. It’s an interesting sonic mixture, and to my ear the only detraction is some rather loungey tenor sax – the electronics and the rhythms are very enjoyable.


Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Bill Laswell, Adam Rudolph / Moving Pictures / Go: Organic Orchestra

Latest news

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Algernon - Ghost Surveillance – Lately I've been listening to a lot of music that is labeled "post-rock," and like many genre labels, there is a point at which it becomes meaningless. World's End Girlfriend, GYBE, Hualun, and...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues