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

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Art Rock Circus - A Passage to Clear & Tell a Vision – Easy to follow narratives within the comfortable confines of a pop progressive melodic framework. Nods to epic classic rock arise here and there. In some places you can hear traces of Genesis,...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues