Conceived as a soundtrack to a non-existent movie, the third CD released by the French fashion house APC (Atelier de Production et de Creation) is a masterpiece crafted by "The Man Who Needs No Sleep," aka Bill Laswell, who already worked on the first two discs. This recording, which was done in five days, has also been released with the subtitle "Ambience Dub, Vol. 1." The credits on the sleeve aren't very helpful -- in fact, the whole CD's artwork consists of a sketchy table drawn by hand, with the musicians' names scribbled among the song titles and numbers indicating their percentage of contribution but nothing else -- so we have to guess at the individual activities. Laswell himself plays his trademark dub bass and, being the producer and mastermind of this recording, he's responsible for the drum programs and various sounds as well. Guitar player Nicky Skopelitis is easily recognizable. Then there's APC designer Jean Touitou, probably playing keyboards; J.B. Mondino, who might play guitar; and Thierry Planelle, obviously adding samples and sounds.

The music is a fascinating mix of midtempo beats, dubby basslines, various guitar styles (reggae, blues, ambient), weird sounds and samples ("Victory Is Certain"), and orchestrated passages. It's easy to listen to and quite relaxing most of the time, yet it's also exciting music done in a subliminally abstract way. The beautiful "Al Arabi Dub" could go on forever, and the bluesy "Killer Bandit Blues" and "Call for Rescue" are strangely edgy and soothing at the same time -- in fact, this description fits the whole disc. The final track, "Lost Rue Madame," is a Laswell solo effort; its ebb-and-flow composition of melancholic strings and low-key dub hints at Laswell's 1999 solo album INVISIBLE DESIGN. There's also the "Painless Steel Version," an update on "Painless Steel," the Laswell track from CROOKLYN DUB CONSORTIUM: CERTIFIED DOPE, VOL. 1 (1995), with reverbed voices adding atmosphere. "Magnetic D. Street" is actually a mix done by D.St., consisting of two tracks from Laswell's collection VALIS I: DESTRUCTION OF SYNTAX (1995), namely DXT's "Twisted Tables" and Automaton's "Ex Machina" -- Automaton being Laswell and DXT in this case (and to further confuse things, DXT and D.St. are the same person). A snippet of B-Side's "Change the Beat" is interpolated, and the voice of Bernard Zekri is added to the Automaton track. To finally unravel the complex network between all these tunes: "Change the Beat" was of course produced by Laswell and co-written by Zekri.

Laswell continued to work with APC and recorded a sequel to this CD, the denser and more twisted APC TRACKS VOL. 2. A great recording in its own right, the follow-up doesn't exactly reach the beauty of VOL. 1, which is one of Laswell's best albums yet.




This review was written for the All-Music Guide on August 11, 1999.

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