Bill Laswell


Emerald Aether: Shape Shifting


Shanachie  78035; 50 minutes; 2000


Transmigration, or the ability to “shape-shift” through different bodies and even alternate realities, holds a mystical place in the deep wellspring of art, history, folklore and magic – both natural and supernatural – that is Ireland.­­


So claims William Murphy in the opening sentence to his notes on Emerald Aether, thus setting the tone for some of the most baffling gobbledygook ever inflicted upon an album, but undeniably appropriate to this woeful CD, subtitled Reconstructions of Irish Music.


Elsewhere Murphy writes:


Recombined, reconfigured, even remixed [his bold type], Irish art may owe a debt to the foreign influences of its past and the unforeseen paths of its wanderings to come, yet somehow for these very reasons it remains distinctly Irish to its core.


Ignoring the fundamental impossibility of anybody or anything owing a debt to its own future, this sentence supposedly offers justification for employment of the techno-whiz kid Laswell to wreak untold havoc on selected works from the catalogues of Jerry O’Sullivan, Solas, Karan Casey, Cathie Ryan and even Matt Molloy.


Clearly, someone somewhere in the Shanachie echelons had been given one of the Cream Ibiza chill-out CDs as a birthday present and decided Irish traditional music was game for a remix job (or rather, to allude to the album’s subtitle, reconstruction). Palpably, it was not and is not, as one listen to Laswell’s murderous destruction of Matt Molloy’s The Hare in the Heather proves in one awesome swoop.


Don’t purchase this; don’t even buy it for an enemy. If you come across a copy, return it to Shanachie with “Not Wanted on Voyage” stamped on the case.



Written by Geoff Wallis for TIMR.



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