(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, January 28, 2011

CD review - Praxis, Profanation: Preparation For a Coming Darkness (2008/2011)

Bill Laswell's band Praxis has a new/old album out. Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness was originally released in Japan in 2008. Bankruptcy of their old label prevented the album's timely release in the US. While die hard fans have already scored the Japanese import, Praxis is sweetening the deal on the new version by including two new live tracks, Wedge and Subgrid. Subgrid sounds like a stretched out version of the tweaky Undercurrent from Zurich.

Praxis' music is an experimental blend of genres, where heavy metal is fused with funk, turntable scratching and electronic riffs coexist with hard rocking, anarchic guitar, and dub style breaks can show up any time. This comes from a changing group of players around a solid cadre. Bill Laswell contributes the driving bass line, of course. Drummer Brain (Godflesh, Primus, recent Guns N' Roses) lays out frantic, dense drum work that plays well with Buckethead's shred heavy guitar work. Buckethead's ability to shift gears from straight ahead metal to WTF contributes strongly to the experimental nature of Praxis' sound.

Profanation also includes collaboration with artists like the late RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, Iggy Pop, System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, Mike Patton, Doctor Israel, Wu-Tang protégé Killah Priest, Jamaica-born toaster Hawk, and long time Praxis player Bernie Worrell.

This crazy mix leads to a wild ride of songs, including the metal/electronic/toasting groove of Worship. This track starts off with a Black Sabbath style riff and Jamaican vocal. It's a cool, headbanging groove, with a mix of Metallica and Rage Against the Machine underlying the stiff funky vocals that Hawk lays out. The political message is defiant and even more relevant today than it was three years ago.

The gem on Profanation is the single, Furies, which takes a laid back, sparse rock grind and pairs it with a glitchy, electronic treatment. Iggy Pop's beautiful, stilted crooning shifts between lazy, complacent verses and punk sneering choruses.
Jesus is a playboy and the world's on fire
Cause the Furies are loose
Buckethead reins himself in here which serves the song well.

There's plenty of funk spread out among the metal on the album, but Revelations Part 2 is my favorite bit. It's got a good P-Funk, jam vibe, but RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ's Gil Scott-Heron style prose poetry sells it: "I was reading the bible backwards and upside down as usual...". The funk is leavened with a little electronic beeps and boops, along with some Zappa-esque guitar.

The studio section of Profanation closes out with the dub exploration of Babylon Blackout and the affirming sound of Buckethead's loose jam, Endtime. Each of these helps reset the mood and prepare the listener to slide back out of the album.

Like other Praxis albums, the effect here is like trying cocktails from a slightly different dimension, "What IS that? And why haven't I had it before?". This new version of Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness was released in the US and Europe on January 25.

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