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Album Review

Low Life is a 1987 recording by half of the legendary quartet Last Exit, which was still a fairly new band at the time. For the album, Peter Brötzmann sticks entirely to his bass saxophone while Bill Laswell plays a variety of electric basses and tosses in the odd loop or sound effect. The result, given the choice of instrumentation, is not surprisingly dark and brooding but nonetheless powerful and often riveting. As in Last Exit, Laswell's thick sound and funk-based sensibility (even when the latter is not explicitly stated) provide a solid ground for Brötzmann's ruminations, whether dour or incendiary. "Death Rattle," the opening track, is a ferocious example; the furious, almost subsonic rumblings of the bass sax deflect metallic whangs and pings hurled its way like an unstoppable juggernaut. There's a spare, wintry feel to several of the pieces, with the cynical, reality-bitten nature of these two musicians becoming almost palpable. But there is also much musical richness to be found in this plumbing of the depths. Low Life offers a clear example of the perhaps surprising likemindedness and affinity of these two strong-headed individuals, and is a valuable document of the Last Exit period.


Born: 12 February 1955 in Salem, IL

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A longtime linchpin of the New York City underground music scene, Bill Laswell has been among the most prolific artists in contemporary music; as a performer, producer, and label chief, his imprint is on literally hundreds of albums, the majority of them characterized by a signature sound fusing the energy of punk with the bone-rattling rhythms of funk. Born on February 12, 1955, in Salem, Illinois, he initially played guitar, but soon switched to bass; raised primarily in the Detroit area, he honed...
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Low Life, Bill Laswell
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