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Material - Hallucination Engine CD (album) cover

HALLUCINATION ENGINE

Material

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.80 | 12 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Although Bill Laswell's work can often sound phoned-in from some massive cookie cutter factory where the latest in hip-hop, world beat and ambient techno get diced and spliced into some trendy name and pre-fab packaging, that's not even remotely the case with this release in 1993 under his band name of Material. Hallucination Engine has plenty of something that is often missing from Laswell projects, memorable melodies. Unlike much of Laswell's other projects, Engine is full of powerful ancient melodies that seem to carry the emotional weight of the centuries. Likewise this album also stands apart from his usual output because it sounds like he spent a lot more time with this one. Although Laswell cuts almost always have that irresistible 'world groove' to them, on this album Bill takes the extra step and care and surrounds those grooves with excellent arrangements full of breaks, alternate melodies and texture change-ups.

Side one contains four somewhat similar down tempo tunes that blend together in a deep orchestrated chill symphony that carries the somber feel of an ancient religious ceremony. Each cut favors middle-eastern tinged violin or rustic open-tuned guitar melodies framed by gorgeous electronic textures and drop-beat sections where the always present ambience takes over. The dub tune Ruins in particular has a lengthy ambient section in which beautiful cascading chord sequences drift by in a sentimental look back to the hey day of late 60s progressive rock when modulating string/choir synthesizers ruled the land. This side closes with Shadows of Paradise in which Nicky Skopelis' post-rock styled open guitar textures set the mood and intertwine with Wayne Shorter's classic tenor lines.

Side two opener, Words of Advice, breaks the reverent mood with some great spoken word from the very irreverent William Burroughs. Definitely tongue in cheek, Words has one of those classic old school gangsta grooves like The Soprano's Theme or Ice T's You Played Yourself. Burroughs is the mac daddy here and he's stepped out of the limo to lay down some grim warnings about boy/girl fights, prostitutes and 'religious SOBs' who want your money. Despite the emotional change of pace, this is my favorite cut on the album and is one of those classics that will transcend it's time if it is not forgotten. Laswell follows this changeup with more fun in the form of a Indo-ragga/hip-hop remake of Weather Report's classic Cucumber Slumber.

After this change of pace, the last two cuts on side two return to the deeply reflective and almost sentimental nature of side one to great effect. The fact that Laswell can effectively blend these last two tunes with Coltrane's classic Naima says much for how much emotional weight Bill's music is carrying. I've never heard anyone else make an effective cover of Naima before, much less have the ability to bridge it's stark emotional quality with music of their own making. Once again the ambient music surrounding his take on Naima recalls the early days of sentimental progressive rock keyboard orchestrations.

This is an incredible album and stands far above Bill Laswell's usual paint by number world dub groove whatever. Most of this album is as serious and sobering as a requiem, yet there is that one cut where William Burrough's drops in with a sly wink and some sage advice about prostitutes and flim flam artists. Excellent and very moving album, highly recommended.

js (Easy Money) | 5/5 |

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