Illuminated Audio (Palm Pictures, 2002)
This review starts with the question, where’s Gigi? The Ethiopian vocalist sensation’s talent has been relegated to a musical wash that lingers in the background of Bill Laswell’s ambient mixes. So technically, Illuminated Audio is Bill Laswell’s album. Fans of the famous dub master Laswell won’t mind, but those individuals who enjoy listening to Gigi (Ejigayehu Shibabaw) will be disappointed to say the least.
relies too heavily on reverberated instruments, exotic beats and bass often times sounding like a studio mix waiting for the vocal tracks to be laid on top. Then again, this could be expected from Laswell who also remixed Miles Davis’ Panthalassa, Bob Marley’s Dreams of Freedom and Carlos Santana’s Divine Light. Dubbing is one thing, but remastering the masters seems like an egoist’s dream.
Thankfully, there is a former version of this CD (simply named Gigi) that features Gigi’s vocals intact and it too was produced by Bill Laswell. The master musicians who appeared on the CD Gigi including saxophonists, Wayne Shorter, Henry Threadgill, Pharoah Sanders, guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, percussionists Aiyb Dieng and Karsh Kale’s musical gifts are highlighted in bits and pieces on Illuminated Audio.
Often times, the saxophones contribute to an overall wash that is anchored by Laswell’s bass and Dieng and Kale’s acoustic drums while Gigi’s vocals float over the top similar to a fickle breeze wafting through an open window. On the track, Guramayle, Gigi’s immaculate voice graces tribal beats and on Gud Fellow, the Ethiopian chanteuse’s vocals flow thoughout a haunting musical scape. Needless to say, there are some gorgeous mixes on this CD, especially for Laswell’s devoted following.
In 1956, John Cage claimed, "In the future records will be made from records." Let’s just hope this doesn’t become the exception to the rule since dead musicians would replace the one’s that are still living, breathing and paying their bills. It’s a difficult struggle as it is competing with live musicians and as the world becomes more techno-friendly, perhaps the creme of the crop will be hollering "brother, can you spare a dime." The good news for some is that you won’t have to pay to see master musicians in concert when you can catch them performing on a street corner near you. Just throw a couple of quarters into their hats.
Originally published on Cranky Crow World Music