Five years ago, this wouldn’t have been the case at all, but these days I bear any recorded product bearing the name “Bill Laswell” with a fair amount of skepticism. The dear man is spreading himself a bit thin. Shooting from the hip, I’d have to say that his contributions to the “Panthalassa” project sucked, but Intonarumori is definitely a huge jump towards redemption. Two reasons why — 1. Material has always been the outlet for some of my favorite Laswell fare, including “Cities of the Red Night” with William Burroughs. 2. Intonarumori is very much a vocalist’s record, with Laswell inhabiting the shadowy spaces between words.
The record certainly is ambitious enough, it’s almost a concept album on the future of hip-hop, with a formal intro and outro, and a whole host of rappers, turntablists, and vocalists turning in utterly inspired performances. The ubiquitous Kool Keith pops up in “Conspiracies” all mad-eyed and incoherent, in short, business as usual, abetted by Kut Masta Kurt. And coming right after that is the fucking sleeper hit of the whole album, slapping you square in the face, “Burnin'” with probably one of the greatest raps I have EVER heard, courtesy of Flava Flav! Oh, yes, Flava Flav turns in a completely mental performance where he mocks his own persona, and gives more advice on venereal disease than Loveline could ever hope to, against a terrifying backup track that is total Bomb Squad. Welcome back, sir.
Killah Priest scares the shit out of me with hardly any instrumental backup at all in “Temple in the Mental;” part sermon, part warning, part deconstructionist rant. And then (and you’ve got to love Laswell for this) he follows it with “All That Future,” possibly Lori Carson’s most beautiful vocal performance ever, the only conspiracies here are in the piques of love and human deceit. Ghetto Prophets literally rub your face in urban bleakness and drug abuse, while horror-movie string fade in and out in and out. There is no glamour in their depiction of the streets. Alicia Blue comes off like a cross between the Supremes and Tricky on “Flow,” and it works. Nature Boy, phonosycographDISK, Ahlill the Transcending Soldier, and Extrakd among others also do not fail to impress. Respect due.
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