Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell, Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell

Robert Phoenix

By Robert Phoenix

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Laswell keeps it irie with Matisyahu’s backing band.

They say that parenthood leads to patience, or at least a stab at the practice thereof. Long-time space-lord of futuristic dub Bill Laswell is a fairly new dad, which might explain why the pace of this collaboration with Roots Tonic (Matisyahu's backing band), is much more measured and controlled than many of his previous excursions in the magical world of dub. The recording kicks off with the mellow and simple "Road To Axum," on which Roots Tonic struts its stuff without any walloping echo or mind-clanging reverb — just a pure expression of their dub cred. But with each successive track, Laswell imprints his style more and more, mutating chunking guitar riffs into bursts of alien chatter, adding effects and samples with much more nuance than one might expect from Laswell. But the real winner here, besides fans of dub, is Roots Tonic bassist Josh Werner, a co-writer of many of Matisyahu's songs. Laswell propels Werner's funky bass lines straight to the front of the mix, almost taking on the soul of a lead guitar, but without the attendant fanfare. You notice it, dig it and move back into the overall mix as Werner leads Roots Tonic, with Laswell's navigation, out of an old testament of dub's legacy and into a new revelation of its transcendent power.