TimeZone: Lost Nations

RootsWorld: Home Page Link RootsWorld: Home Page Link

Jon Humboldt Gates, Bill Laswell
Reconstruction and Mix Translation
TimeZone: Lost Nations
M.O.D. Technologies (www.mod-technologies.com)

When American singer and guitarist Jon Humboldt Gates traveled to Moscow in the early 1990s, the most expansive vision of his “Timezone” project came to light. The result was more than a transcontinental collaboration; it was a division of two cellular cultures into one organism. Until that point, Gates's brainchild had been an incubator for far-reaching impulses, growing like an edible fungus across a decade's worth of tree bark. Gates then carried his spores across the Pacific, on which the trail of his intentions must float still, bobbing to some submarine beat. Thus did the studio tapes that would become Lost Nations make their crisscrossing journey between Timezone East and Timezone West, a coming together of 20 artists whose integration grew only as the gargantuan trunk of the Soviet Union fell into disintegration.

Bill Laswell has taken these original recordings as (re)construction materials for a self-styled “mix translation,” which finds the prolific bassist and producer building on a series of full-length remix projects around such towering figures as Bob Marley, Miles Davis, and Carlos Santana. Regardless of the source, at the heart of it all thrives a fundamental sound, one in which the fatigue of social living gives way to harmony in kind. If we can find commonality in sound, this music seems to ask, then why not also in soul?

Over three extended tracks, each the center of its own compass, the album guides us in as many distinct forays into fusion. In “Rodina – Zahnika,” flutes give way to a reggae guitar motif, fully anchored by Laswell's bassing. Vocals from Russian male singers bring with them a taste of light through darkness. Rather than see the way to unity as a matter of borders, Laswell chooses to see borders as a way to unity. His insertions are therefore as satisfying as long-lost puzzle pieces only now given an opportunity to fit into their surroundings. Despite the optimistic undercurrent, there is a desolate quality to the proceedings, as if they were caught in the past even as they reach toward future freedoms. But the presence of it all is fecund, and as the reggae pulse fades into the circular motions of keyboards and African percussion, the possibility of life reveals itself through the technology required to make it sing.

“Black Sea – Siberian Crossing” jumps squarely into Timezone's organic center. Joyce Hough of the western front sings of walking over dark waters, taking the impossible path as the only path. Here is where the album's philosophical signature takes clearest shape—not only because of the overtness of lyrical understanding to English-speaking listeners, but also because of the way in which Hough navigates topographical changes without fear. A soprano saxophone seems to emerge from her mouth like an afterthought, a prayer given chance to dream. A male counterpart fades into frame, backed by guitar, bass, and keyboards. Like two hands of intertwined fingers, these voices can only be extended so far before they shed their bond. Each is rooted in the opposing hand but shares the connective body.

“Barikada – To Answer!” ends the album in a more politically minded state, with Hough again raising the call to arms. Electric and acoustic guitar lines mark dirt and rubble through a territory stricken by war and curfews. This protest song feeds into the glow of a more aggressive variant, with edgier guitars and drumming leading the way into rebellion. But in the end, the only rebellion we are left with is the one we wage in ourselves. - Tyran Grillo

 

Looking for More Information?

Subscribe

return to rootsworld

© 2016 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.

 

cd cover

Share on Facebook

 

RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.