Alex Haas / Bill Laswell – ‘Smoke + Glass’ Reaction
Smoke + Glass is the abstract name of an even more abstract LP from the production duo Alex Haas / Bill Laswell. The two engineers and producers have been working from the shadows of the NYC music scene since the late ’70s, and their distinctive sound has marked projects by influential names like Blur and Nine Inch Nails.
It’s hard to summarize Smoke + Glass, because how do you summarize an LP that blends Eastern, ethereal instrumentals with dubby basslines in one song, and then takes a sharp turn in the next, conjuring up the mental chaos, ramping about behind a character’s zoomed-in face in a chilling scene from a thriller/horror film.
The common theme in Smoke + Glass is the edge and sense of drama that permeates its experimental sound, which stems from the glitchy beats, eerie urban electronics, and just the all-around ambivalence of the songs. The LP is quite suitable for mystery films ala David Lynch or something with a futuristic feel. Another common denominator is the vivid imagery it invokes, however, with the exception of the palpably creepy songs, that imagery can be strictly subjective.
Saxophone fans will certainly find something in the song “Chasing Chaos”, which probably takes its name from the instrument’s vehement melodies which whirl around like a rampant, but beautifully shaped tornado.
The “Truth Be Told” music video is also worth a mention, as it immerses us in a relaxing, underwater backdrop which complements perfectly the song’s ethereal Eastern motifs and makes for quite a trippy combination with the ambient feel of the music. There are some vibrant shots of underwater shapes that fluidly split symmetrically in a somewhat psychedelic fashion, the kind we usually see in animations, which speaks to the masterful execution of the video.
Overall, Smoke + Glass is an ambitious project with some extravagant sounds that definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this is precisely what the LP aims for.