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Published: 2001/11/21
by Jesse Jarnow

Points Of Order – Bill Laswell

Innerhythmic 011

A lot of music is meant to be heard loudly, either live or on a pair (or
even two pairs) of very expensive speakers with a high tolerance for
thumping somethingorother. It often doesn't translate to home listening. It
is intended to fill a room with sound such that the audience can move
through the waves, interact with it.

Some musicians do what they call the "boombox test", which is to listen to
the mix of the album they're producing on the lowest fidelity system they
can find, to make sure that the album still kicks even through the tinniest
of amplifiers. Bill Laswell obviously did not perform a similar evaluation
of "Points Of Order". Listening to it out loud is like staring down into the
bottom of a deep, murky pond. I'm not quite sure if this can be remedied by
volume, but it can at least be helped with headphones.

When one slips them over his ears, he is instantly underwater, submerged
into the dark space of Bill Laswell's music. Laswell, a bassist and
producer, is a master of low frequencies. He works with them subtly,
manipulating them like a deep shade of grey slowly changing to another deep
shade of grey. There are a little too many drums, too many conceits to the
tangible world, to make this an entirely convincing musical landscape. The
two tracks with the Anti-Pop Consortium – Staple Nex and Broken
Toenail Gland – are highly literate, even incredible, from a verbal
point of view, but lack the majestic abstraction of tracks like the
all-too-short White Ark.

The production is dirty around the edges and frequently unsettling, giving
the feeling of aural heartburn. Everything has a slight crackle to it —
guitars mixed with a slight buzz on the pluck, vaguely dissonant drones,
sharp scratching. This can lead to a surprising agitation on the part of the
listener — the feeling one gets when swimming and feels unidentified sea
driftings brushing over the backs of his legs. It's not harmful to the total
picture, but makes the swimmer uncomfortable.

These are strange fish. Or maybe they're not even fish. It's like you're
submerged and swimming through an empty underwater landscape and looking for
something. There are plenty of oddities and irregularities in what
you're looking at; strange formations you've never seen, holes and caverns
and things you might dive down into. There are few fish, however, and you
rarely actually do dive into the caverns.

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