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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion

BILL LASWELL

By Judson Kilpatrick

Emerald Aether: Shape Shifting
Shanachie

Bill Laswell has been part of dub's avant-garde for decades, even remixing the likes of Miles Davis and Santana. Now, having stripped down and "reconstructed" tracks in practically every other genre, he sets his able, knob-twiddling fingers upon Irish music. The album opens with a misty reverie that would have been perfect for a Xena episode before breaking into a string-singeing reel with a furious break beat. Then, recalling Sinead O'Connor's "I Am Stretched On Your Grave," Laswell rocks a mid-tempo hip-hop beat under vocalist Karan Casey's mournful "The Labouring Man's Daughter." And so it goes: funky drums give way to gentle instrumental meanderings, and just as your eyes begin to get weary, out of the morass pops a frenetic rhythm and some gut-rattling bass. The beat-free sections may be too long and soundtrack-y for some folks, but they are well performed and virtually define the oft-used critic's word "haunting." And Laswell's production, as he ranges from gentle guitar and violin to heavy drums, is pristine. Afro-Celt Sound System had the idea first, but this is a whole new, and quite lovely, soundscape.