John McLaughlin (Guitar); Gary Husband (Keys and Drums); Etienne Mbappe (Bass); Ranjit Barot (Drums)
“Playing and working with the same musicians in a band is a living process which unfolds as time goes by,” reflects guitarist, composer, and bandleader John McLaughlin when considering the release of his latest album, Black Light – the third studio album to feature his band, the 4th Dimension. Available via Abstract Logix on September 18, 2015, Black Light finds the relentlessly inquisitive, exploratory McLaughlin continuing to uncover new melodic and rhythmic pathways with the same fearless zeal that has made him one of modern music’s most admired and influential figures. And, in the 4th Dimension – drummer/vocalist Ranjit Barot, keyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, and bassist Étienne M’Bappé – McLaughlin has gathered a trio of fellow travelers with the collective discipline, technical ability, musicianship, and imagination to support, enhance, and enrich McLaughlin’s challengingly expansive new material and methods.
“I am always excited to play with these musicians,” McLaughlin says enthusiastically – no small compliment given he has performed alongside an array of revolutionary talents in his lifetime. “Not only are they marvelous players, but they are great human beings, and as such we have developed, over the years, a deep complicity that comes through in the music.”
Alternately thrilling and heart-rending, the performances and compositions captured on Black Light represent a daring cross-section of McLaughlin’s remarkable career. Throughout, elements of different traditions and styles McLaughlin has been inspired by (and, in some cases, helped to create) are juxtaposed and interwoven into startling new designs – in a most tasteful, musical fashion. “If you simply impose musical elements of a different culture arbitrarily, the result will not be emotionally authentic,” he explains. “The integration of the various talents of the musicians arrives in a way that I can only call organic.”
Helping to cohere the sonic landscape of Black Light is the artful use of electronic elements – both in terms of programmed rhythm tracks, guitar synthesis, and Husband’s uniquely human touch on synthesizers. “The original concept of this recording relates to an album I made some years ago called Industrial Zen,” McLaughlin continues, “in which I worked a long time with what is called ‘sound designs,’ which are either soundscapes or rhythmic elements that have the capacity to evoke feelings and visions in my imagination that would not come otherwise. I became involved in synthesis as far back as 1975, and I’m still attracted to the possibilities of expression. It actually is a fascinating world, but can be quite easily abused in an artistic sense. To me, this is the seductive side of sound design.”
The results achieved by integration of the band’s powerful yet nuanced performances with textured electronic backdrops both haunting and urgent is startling. Witness Barot going head-to-head with a propulsive, roiling synthetic rhythm track on “Kiki,” or how the band weaves in and out of “360 Flip”’s stark, unpredictable electro-underpinnings. “360 Flip” is also one of several Black Light tracks to feature Barot’s mastery of konokol – an Indian tradition of vocalized percussion.