Praxis — Sound Virus
(M.O.D. Technologies , 2015, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-10-14
Sacrifist (1993) and Metatron (1994) stand as a pinnacle (or nadir, in some opinions) of the cross-fertilization between brutal heavy rock and the avant-garde. And while other Praxis albums have touched on other things (funk, world music, electronics, and so on), those two held a tight focus on over-the-top noisy experimentation. Sound Virus is billed as “re-stored, edited, enhanced and remastered” versions of tracks from them, which makes it “not a compilation.” Whatever you say, guys – I’m guessing that most people who love the original albums would probably want this, and we wouldn’t want to discourage them. As for myself, it’s been so long since I heard either of them that I’d hesitate to make any comparisons whatsoever. Listening to this music now, it certainly doesn’t sound dated – while many other bands have entered into this general space since Praxis sort of invented it, these guys had their own thing. That’s due in large part to the prodigious and eccentric talents of the musicians involved. Leader Bill Laswell’s bass is mind-boggling in its variety, sounding funky with crazy effects one minute, then crushing the low end with improbable levels of distortion the next. The guitar is handled (and mis-handled) by Buckethead, whose name at the mere mention will conjure up ridiculous flurries of notes (and goofy narratives about chickens, but we needn’t go there). This album finds him occasionally indulging those tendencies (the guitar part anyway), but also delving much further into some really freaky territory, with his effects pedals seemingly taking over and declaring war on such trivialities as keys, notes, and scales. “Puny humans with the pathetic sounds you call music, you have no idea what realms of sound lie beyond!” Brain provides the rhythmic backbone, mostly in the neighborhood of overdriven pummeling on the drums, but with some respite for breathing, if not actual relaxation. John Zorn shows up for some squawking and squealing on the sax from time to time; Mick Harris of Napalm Death and Yamatsuka Eye of the Boredoms provide some manic vocalization. In all of this, it’s impossible to make out how much of the sound was produced by the original musicians and how much is the result of the aforementioned “enhanced” thing. But that’s neither here nor there. For anyone not afraid of music that gets really noisy, this is an essential release, and a master class in both avant-metal and creative production.
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more