The two latest from bassist Steve Lawson are companion albums, though different from one another as Lawson points out. They are solo bass albums but Lawson has added a new instrument called the Quneo which allows him to play drum and synth sounds alongside his bass. This works well throughout both albums as the electronics bring an interesting new dimension to Lawson’s music, nicely expanding on his already ambient sound without being intrusive.
Steve Lawson – “A Crack Where The Light Gets In”
I like the strange but pleasant blend of ambient drift and robotic electro pulse on the opener, Theoria (triptych i), which creates a sensation that is simultaneously fluid and off-kilter as the bass plays it’s meditative leads. It’s like Kraftwerk’s Computer World gone Ambient-Jazz, with a deep space element as soundscape trails are left to drench the auditory canvas. The Quneo sounds impressively like real drums on It’s Our Scars That Unite Us, which blends smooth Jazz with a cosmic vibe and effects that add a contrasting but nonetheless complimentary freaky element. Lawson’s bass leads beautifully play the part of both guitar and bass on Poiesis (triptych ii). I like how the lulling melodies and dreamy ambience play the straight men to the flittering, buzzing and bleeping effects. Each bass note and run melts into space on the tinkling and whirring The Ice Cracks But Holds Firm. Lawson injects sci-fi effect colorings into what starts as a cool lounge Jazz vibe on Praxis (triptych iii), but then circles back to the opening track theme with robotic insect electronics and an ambient fuzzed out Jazz lead. Finally, This Is My Truth… Tell Me Yours is the longest but subtlest of tracks, with Lawson playing tripped out Psychedelic leads alongside a hauntingly dreamy atmospheric flow.
Steve Lawson – “The Way Home”
The Way Home immediately distinguishes itself from its companion album with the opening title track, which has a bouncy soulful Pop melody and groove, though a spacey ambience soon rolls in like light fog, accentuated by trippy leads, as if to say that this may be accessible but we’re still going to transport you… elsewhere. Ask Me Again In Twenty Years returns to cosmic form, being a pure Space-Ambient-Jazz and freaky effects excursion. A Little Slower Than The Angels kicks up just a wee bit of a Hip-Hop/Dub pulse, over which Lawson plays spaced out leads amidst atmospheric drift, creating an overall Psychedelic-Jazz film soundtrack feel. The rhythmic pulse on Looking For The Burning Dog is like a throbbing drone/thrum in my brain as Lawson plays multiple leads with some of the most varied sounds of the set. One is a dead ringer for Jazz guitar and there’s some cool space-fuzz licks later in the piece (remember folks, ALL bass). Three Days In New York Can Change You Forever is another pure ambient-soundscape journey into deep space meditative bliss. There’s rhythm, trippy psyched out solos and effects. And it even gets a bit intensely noisy at the end. But this sucker will sweep you away. And Shut Out The World is a short melodic Jazz piece that closes the set.
I’ve been sporadically following Lawson’s work for 15 years now and he has consistently shown himself to be an accomplished Jazz bassist who is creatively exploring new approaches to his instrument, utilizing various effects and soundscape palettes, though never at the expense of making crystal clear that the man can really play. Both these albums go together well and for me really play like one set.
To stream, download and purchase these and LOTS of other Steve Lawson albums (both solo and collaborative) visit: http://music.stevelawson.net
Visit the Steve Lawson web site at: http://www.stevelawson.net
Lawson makes choices easy by pricing his digital albums low and even offers subscriptions and a 30 albums on USB Stick option. Check ’em out.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz