It’s hard to overstate bassist/producer Bill Laswell’s influence on contemporary music or, more specifically, the meshing of rock, avant-garde jazz and electronica, which, thanks largely to him, is now commonplace. His latest project, Method of Defiance, maintains his cross-disciplinary ideal, though it cleaves to the vocabulary of pure drum and bass. The group, featuring the DJ/programmer Submerged, Guy Licata on drums and Laswell on bass, debuted last year with The Only Way to Go Is Down (Sublight), a blistering nine-track affair.
The new disc, Inamorata, is more expansive, and more directly jazz-related. Laswell produced and arranged the music, but he commissioned a slew of top drum-and-bass artists—Paradox, SPL, Evol Intent, Karsh Kale and more—to create the tracks. He also brought on board an imposing roster of jazz musicians, including Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman, Craig Taborn, Nils Petter Molvær, Graham Haynes and Byard Lancaster. The music is combative, a concentrated spray of hyperkinetic beats, fat bass lines, involved solos and ethereal sonics.
Sanders sets the tone with a roaring tenor solo on “Ta’ Wil.” Liebman surfaces later, blowing urgent soprano on “Pattern Engine.” Buckethead and Bernie Worrell are a study in contrast on “Humanoid.” Pete Cosey goes head to head with Haynes and Lancaster, respectively, on “Hidden Killer” and “Amenta.” The most radical is “Aibi Virus,” which jumps rapidly between John Zorn’s skronk alto and the pellucid sound of the Masada String Trio.
After an hour, the fast, hammering beats can sound monochromatic. But the keyboardists do much to broaden the canvas. Taborn’s meditative Rhodes intro on “Anti Jazz Glitch” is a highlight. And Hancock’s multi-tracked electric piano on “Panepha” is ideal, given Laswell’s involvement in the Hancock discography, from “Rockit” all the way to Future2Future.