Both Eno disciples and practitioners of a variant of Jon Hassell's "Fourth World" music, each experienced peak popularity in the early 1990s -- when technology first made these kind of collaborations possible. Where Laswell migrated in the 80s from Celluloid to his own Axiom imprint, Brook tracked Eno for a while (EG, Opal) before becoming Peter Gabriel's house guy at Real World.
Both would also oversee numerous "traditional" recordings during this period, but used his access to famous world musicians and (then-)cutting edge studio technology to different ends -- for Laswell, to "tear down" what he perceived to be artificial walls between different musical cultures, where Brook, ever the studious pupil-type, seemed to be using his time with various giants of world music further his own personal music education. A mid-90s feature in Sound On Sound reveals Brook to be quite the studio obsessive, while another in PSF noted the similarity in ecstatic singing between Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mary Margaret O'Hara, both produced by Brook.
For my part, while Brook's experiments aren't always compelling, I find the sound of his digital/Eventide production holds up and rarely does the music descend into the kind of monotonous supersessions or new age mysticism that sank so many Laswell records.
Two decades on, which of these dudes did the better work of this era?
― Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:01 (6 months ago) Permalink
mary margaret o'hara wins.
― scott seward, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:13 (6 months ago) Permalink
i've always kinda hated what people "did" with nusrat. nobody needed to do anything to/with him. he was so beyond all that.
― scott seward, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:16 (6 months ago) Permalink
honestly though, is there anyone on earth who can't live without these two people? their music, i mean. i'm sure their families love them. has anyone ever craved bill laswell stuff since like 1984? feel like its his calling in life to work with as many talented people as he can and make those people sound less interesting.
― scott seward, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:21 (6 months ago) Permalink
I read David Toop's Exotica book that covers a bit of this, but I wish I had actually heard music of this era/scene. For some reason I think of Jah Wobble when I think of bill laswell, no idea why. I like Jah Wobble's music and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.
― JacobSanders, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:26 (6 months ago) Permalink
I can live without Brook's post-4AD work (I keep on buying it, hoping) but Sleeps with the Fishes, the Captive, and Cobalt Blue are all classic.
― the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:27 (6 months ago) Permalink
just buy the first african head charge record and forget all about these guys. hell, buy an Orb album if you have to.
― scott seward, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:27 (6 months ago) Permalink
i swear that goth dude from dead can dance made better-sounding world fusion records than any of these other guys. in the 90's. guy had a gift for sound. even if you aren't a fan. i also give all credit to miss america to mary margaret. she should have made the whole thing herself.
― scott seward, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:34 (6 months ago) Permalink
Ha ha ha
Scott, tell us how you really feel...
― Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:35 (6 months ago) Permalink
do you mean peter ulrich?
― the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:38 (6 months ago) Permalink
honestly though, is there anyone on earth who can't live without these two people?
although technically, he can't live with *or* without michael brook.
― the girl from spirea x (f. hazel), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 04:49 (6 months ago) Permalink
I like some of laswell's 90s collabs with Atom Heart and Tetsu Inoue. That stuff is not ethno-fusiony, though, just creepy drones/squiggly sounds.
― brimstead, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 05:45 (6 months ago) Permalink
When it comes to 90s Ambient World Fusion I like Russell Mills better than either, though I understand the logic of this taking sides.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 06:04 (6 months ago) Permalink
scott otm, Laswell is fucking pish
― chow mein kampf (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 11:15 (6 months ago) Permalink
jon hassel ftw
― Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 11:19 (6 months ago) Permalink
I think it's totally fair to dislike all this stuff -- frankly, the Laswell records do almost nothing for me and I've never heard any of the DCD guy's stuff or much of Russell Mills.
But I think it's interesting to look at what these guys were trying to do w these records with hindsight -- and measure what their actual impact was. Maybe I should read the Toop at some point.
Thought this was interesting from Brook re. the commercial viability of all this vis a vis Real World:
I think the thing is that... basically, most of us are not experts in most of those cultures. And if you're not an expert, I think one or two examples of some musical tradition, you pretty well get saturated. And unless you're really going to study it, you just mostly perceived the gross features of it. Beyond the third or fourth example of it, it's going to sound the same. And so I think that's what the label is finding as well. They're not sure that there's that much of a market for another Ganean guitar band. In the West, anyway. And so I think the label itself has kind of shifted direction to try and offer more unique combinations of things, and collaborations. And all the musicians are interested in it too. But I think they kind of found they saturated the sort of pure exotic music market, to some degree. I mean, of course there's still things coming out, but I think if you can create these novel combinations, people find it more interesting. And also, I think by incorporating some western elements you give a bit of a hook for western listeners to try and ease themselves into it.
― Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 20:58 (6 months ago) Permalink
Hassell better than all of this but I'm not really familiar with his 90s work.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 21:22 (6 months ago) Permalink
I like Hybrid & Cobalt Blue & Sleeps with the Fishes & Mustt Mustt & Night Song & Black Rock (w/ Djivan Gasparyan) well enough, but if I had to pick one Michael Brook album for a desert island sojourn, it would be Live at the Aquarium. Live without overdubs, Brooks is spare and fluid and graceful.
Laswell never added much to his sources, but he seems a personable guy who got a lot of unlikely characters to collaborate. I probably had dozens of things with Laswell credits before I succumbed to exhaustion in the mid-90s. Still really like the Material - Seven Souls, Nicki Skopelitis - Next To Nothing, Ginger Baker - Middle Passage trilogy, as well as the Moroccan field recordings Master Musicians of Jajouka - Apocalypse Across the Sky and Gnawa Brotherhood of Marrakesh - Night Spirit Masters. The trilogy stands apart from most of the Axiom stuff as being fully cooked, while the Jajouka and Gnawa recordings remain the best Moroccan folk recordings I've encountered, because of the atmospheric postproduction. I do think its worth avoiding things Laswell himself plays bass on, as he has a leaden metronomic style from his disco days that doesn't mesh with flowing syncopation from other musicians. At least to my ears.
― 圧迫系プレイ (Sanpaku), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 21:24 (6 months ago) Permalink
Laswell has his name on a lot more stuff that I love than Brook, who gave us ... Cobalt Blue, Hybrid and a few Real World production gigs. But Laswell, I mean, he sucks now, but come on: Ginger Baker's "Middle Passage," Bernie Worrell's "Funk of Ages," Golden Palominos "Drunk WIth Passion," Material's "Third Power," Painkiller's "Guts of a Virgin," Sony Sharrock's "Ask the Ages" (masterpiece), Bahia Black's "Ritual Beating System" ... then I, too, got bored/tired keeping up.
― Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 22:39 (6 months ago) Permalink
As per bass, Laswell is great on this:
― Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 30 October 2012 22:41 (6 months ago) Permalink
Oh Laswell is capable of a many styles. Maybe in another universe he might have had Will Lee's career. Its just there's a "Robbie Shakespeare quantized to an 8th note grid" rhythm he fell into all too often, and clearly intentionally, that bugged the hell out of me at the time.
― 圧迫系プレイ (Sanpaku), Tuesday, 30 October 2012 23:44 (6 months ago) Permalink