Producer's effort a letdown

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders

The Trance of Seven Colors

Axiom Records

Bill Laswell is a name that either brings anguish or ecstasy to a music fan's mind.

The superhero producer and visionary extraordinaire has always brought the latter to the Wildcat music staff, but his label's latest offering, The Trance of Seven Colors, immediately evokes the criticisms usually put forth by Laswell's detractors.

There has never been any question as to Laswell's influence in contemporary music. It was Laswell who brought jazz to hip-hop triumphantly with Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," and Laswell was the first to couple reggae music with a drum machine when he produced reggae rhythm kings Sly and Robbie's seminal Rhythm Killers album. These genre crossings were somewhat contro

versial, but nothing compared to Laswell's work of late. On his Axiom label, Laswell's interests have largely centered around the fusion of World Music, jazz and ambient, and his output has been startling.

However, critics have questioned the consolidation of traditional ethnic music with Laswell's dub basslines and jazz intention. On no release to date has Laswell's coalition seemed more trying than his latest, The Trance of Seven Colors. The Gnawa music that Laswell presents here is Morrocan holy music, and centers around its performers searching for the mluk (the "color" or "spirit" of the music), finding it and then searching for the next color. The trance music is sometimes performed for hours at a time, with the intention of healing or purifying its participants.

The music is empowering to listen to by itself, its power transcending the musical form. But the coupling of Maleem Mahmoud Ghania, one of Gnawa's best known masters, with free jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders seems a little off. It just seems strange that this strongly introspective music would need the manic noodling of Sanders, andThe Trance of Seven Colors shows this. "Hamdouchi," the album's third track, evolves into an unlistenable mess, with Sanders' explorations violently contrasting with the more gentle churnings of the Morrocan group. Listening to this track, it's easy to question Laswell's decision to invoke his musical vision into the Gnawa form.

Thankfully, the rest of the album does not disappoint. For the most part, Sanders remains unintrusive. While the album begins with Sanders' quiet playing on "La Allah Dayim Moulenah," his involvement is decidedly diminshed when the Gnawa begins. For most of the album, Sanders' sax nicely blends into the instrumental searches. Together, the guimbri of Mahmoud Ghania and the tenor saxophone of Pharoah Sanders search for the music of different worlds, and, more often than not, succeed.

The Wedding Present


Island Records

After years of label problems in the United States, one of England's greatest bands, The Wedding Present, has (hopefully) found a home.

And what better homewarming gift than Watusi, a more than worthwhile addition to the quintet's catalog.

Watusi is a great introduction to the group's patented Brit-pop, and is a showcase for some of David Gedge and crew's strongest songs. The melt in your ear splendor of "Gazebo" and "So Long Baby" are excellent examples of The Wedding Present's hyperactive jangling guitar and propelling rhythms, married with Gedge's strange yet sweetly off-key vocal melodies.

While previous Wedding Present albums have never deviated from the WP formula, Watusi offers several breaks from their sound. Halfway through the album, The Wedding Present offers slower songs, special effects, and a lot less jangling guitar. Tracks such as "Cat Woman" and "Click Click" are decidedly un-Wedding-Present-like. Yet they work, and The Wedding Present appears ready to grow up and out artistically.

Along with Bizarre/Planet's reissuing of The Wedding Present's excellent singles compilations, Hit Parade 1 &2, Watusi is an exciting attempt to attract an American following.

ÄNoah Lopez

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