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The Bellwether Project

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Album Review

Layng Martine III is best-known for his engineering and mixing work with bassist/producer Bill Laswell, so it comes as little surprise that The Bellwether Project, a collaboration with Widespread Panic bassist David Schools and a host of guest musicians, features a similar fusionary sound. It also comes as little surprise that, in addition to various studio aces and guitarist Pete Droge, the ensemble cast includes longtime Laswell associates like turntablist DXT and singer/songwriter Lori Carson. And while Martine is not quite on his mentor's level as far as attracting world class musical talent, it's clear that he is undoubtedly a product of Laswell's influence. Take the opening "Field Guide to Snapping," for instance: Over a funky, laid-back hip-hop groove driven by Schools' subdued bassline, Martine layers ambient samples, synth squiggles and DXT's syncopated scratching to create a textured bit of luscious space-funk straight outta the master's textbook. On "Bell-O-Matic," an off-kilter drumbeat and haunting sampled voices provide the backdrop for Droge's echoed blues guitar riffs, as Carson's folksy vocals provide a catchy hook for listeners to grab hold of. And "North Fork Two-Step" is just pure, insane genius, with a countrified rock riff that wouldn't sound out of place on a Lynyrd Skynyrd record matched with a funky backbeat, DXT's timely cutting and chicken-scratching, and horns that don't sound nearly as out of place as they probably should. Not every track on The Bellwether Project works-"Third Ear" starts with a crafty guitar melody, but ultimately goes nowhere, while the 10-minute ambient epic "What A Day May Bring" aims for Laswell's trademark brand of lush minimalism, but winds up being a lengthy snoozer. But the ones that do (especially the dreamy folk-pop of Carson's "Little Bird") let you know that Laswell's legacy is in good hands.

The Bellwether Project, Slang
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