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.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more