John McLaughlin – Industrial Zen
John McLaughlin – Guitar, Fretless Guitar, Chants, Synth and
Dennis Chambers- Drums (trk 3, 5 & 6)
Vinnie Colaiuta- Drums (trk 2)
Bill Evans – Sax (trk 1 & 4)
Hadrien Feraud – Bass (trk 1 & 7)
Matthew Garrison – Bass (trk 4 & 5)
Tony Grey – Bass (Trk 3 & 8)
Gary Husband – Keyboards (trk 1, 2, 3, 5 & 7) and Drums
(trk 1 & 7)
Zakir Hussain – Tabla (trk 3, 5 & 6)
Eric Johnson – Guitar (trk 2)
Shankar Mahadevan – Vocals (trk 6 & 8)
Mark Mondesir – Drums (trk 1 & 7)
Ada Rovatti – Sax (trk 3 & 6)
Otmaro Ruiz – Synthesizer (trk 5)
1. For Jaco
2. New Blues old Bruise
3. Wayne’s Way
4. Just so only more so
5. To Bop or not to Be (For Michael Brecker)
6. Dear Dalai Lama
7. Senor C. S.
8. Mother Nature
“How did I used to play?” – Miles Davis
After an extended tour of duty with Remember Shakti, John McLaughlin has finally released his “underground” recording, Industrial Zen. And it was worth the wait. Continuing his creative process of “destroying everything” so that he isn’t directed by automatisms and habits, John’s Muse guided him to new territory. John thrives in new territory: as he discovers new ways to expand his sonic palette, he paints with new colors on his musical canvas.
The “Industrial” comes from John’s version of electronica/techno music. Computer programmed beats, loops, synth pads and samples are incorporated into the songs. The loops assume various roles within the pieces: they can be the foundation of the piece, act as embellishments, establish the tempo and rhythm of the song, and create mood and atmosphere.
Beyond the obvious connection to Buddhism, to me the “Zen” is characterized by the meditative effect produced by the loops. Listening to the minute details in the loops – the subtle changes in color, sounds played against [rather than “with”] each other, the panning, the tempos and rhythms – is pure ear candy. I could listen to a CD full of nothing but JMcL’s loops. The eight compositions are consistently strong. In an odd way, the addition of the programming and samples turns the music from a collection of songs into a unified concept.
Sonically, this is one of the best sounding “studio” releases JMcL has had in a while. There is an “airy” or “spacious” quality to the production. The drums have a lot of resonance, the high-end is clear, and the bass players aren’t mired in a mid-rangy bog. The separation of the instruments and overall mix is great; and a left/right stereo split on John’s guitar and effects adds a nice touch. Headphones are definitely recommended.
The stellar cast of musician’s play their collective asses off. The Master, especially, is in very fine form throughout.
A few of the many highlights on Industrial Zen are:
– For Jaco: If you sped up Weather Report’s “Nubian Sundance” (from Mysterious Traveler), it might sound something like this. Relatively new but soon to be well-known bass phenom Hadrien Feraud plays Jaco inspired [not copied] phrases from beginning to end.
– New Blues old Bruise: Opening with vocal samples that sound like the group Take Six, this piece is the blues Johnny Mac style. Guitarist Eric Johnson guests on the track, and his string bending during his solo is reminiscent of those patented ’70s era Maha-John licks. I wish the two guitarists had traded a few bars, but that’s a nit-pick on my part.
– Dear Dalai Lama: Shankar Mahadevan’s soaring voice at the start leads you to believe that this is poignant piece. And indeed the track does continue that way as JMcL and Ada Rovatti have a tender musical dialogue. But 1/4-way in, tabla master Zakir Hussain starts heating things up. A few minutes later, monster drummer Dennis Chambers kicks in, and then all hell breaks loose. John adds a bit of dirt and grit to his tone and starts wailing over a ferocious Hussain/Chambers can of whoop-ass. Hands down, this is THE SHIT! After the bloodletting, the tune drops back into poignant mode. You’re emotionally drained, and left wondering what kind of “mind” is capable of creating something like this?
– Mother Nature: Not many songs with lyrics in the JMcL songbook, and this one is a beauty. The programmed loops together with Mahadevan’s singing is a wonderful combination.
John thinks that critics will crucify him for making this record. I don’t think he gave them enough ammunition. If anything they’ll be thankful that he created the soundscapes of Industrial Zen. I know I am.