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Hoppy Kamiyama & Bill Laswell - A Navel City / No One is There

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Artist: Hoppy Kamiyama & Bill Laswell

Album: A Navel City / No One is There

Label: Creage/Yamaha

Review date: May. 13, 2004

Both of these music personalities are well-known for their assorted collaborations, so it should be no surprise that they have finally gotten together to see what results. Tokyo-based Kamiyama is a producer and keyboardist, perhaps best known as head honcho of the God Mountain label and the impresario behind acts as varied as eX-Girl and the Pugs, while producer and bassist Laswell has been involved with everything from Material and Painkiller to remixing Miles Davis.

The idea of Laswell's deep dub sensibilities combined with Kamiyama's more prankish nature intrigued me as soon as I heard of the project. These seven long pieces place Laswell's bass and Kamiyama's keyboards over drums by guest Kiyohiko Semba, with tricky sound effects by both Kamiyama and Laswell sprinkled liberally throughout. The good news is that the outcome of this collaboration balances the impulses of both strong personalities, giving the listener deep grooves and playful touches. Semba's strong, nimble drumming is worthy of more than just a brief mention as well; he moves easily from simple, straightforward beats to fast, head-spinning fills, and is an excellent match for both Laswell's dub pulsing and Kamiyama's weird jazz moments.

The disc's opener, "Azlo," begins with Laswell’s bass and echoing drums. As it progresses, though, the rhythm section heightens the tempo with some very impressive drum fills, as synthesized pings and bells enter here and there. "Todes Fuge" features sparkling piano work with metallic sound effects, while "Sospirando" layers a variety of electronics over a simple, strong beat.

The drums are again noteworthy on "Zarathustra," after a slow introductory movement filled with cymbals and what's probably ultra-compressed bass. "Sad Emission" also evolves from one sonic signature to another, beginning with slow, thick bass and drums that quickly accelerate, dominated by alien keyboards and a dense bassline. Later it slows again, morphing into a gently jazzy piece with drops of rainlike piano and strangely murmuring background sounds.

All in all, these and the other songs here offer a fair variety while concentrating on what each of the participants does best. Unlike some collaborations, which can seem forced, these pieces feel comfortable in the sense that Kamiyama and Laswell apparently realized how they could best take advantage of their combined strengths. Good work all around.

By Mason Jones

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