Profanation (Preparation For A Coming Darkness)

Praxis

M.O.D. Technologies, 2011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praxis_(band)

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/01/2020

Everything but the kitchen sink: it's a recipe for an album that can be hit or miss, but when on-target, it makes for a fascinating hodgepodge of music that takes repeated listens to digest. Such is Profanation (Preparation For A Coming Darkness), the final album by one of bass player Bill Laswell's long-term groups, Praxis. From its first recorded album in 1992 (Transmutation) onward, the core of the band was Laswell in the driver’s seat with Buckethead on guitar and Bryan "Brain" Mantia, best known for his time in Primus, on drums. A broad range of contributors passed through the band until it was put on permanent hiatus in 2008. Among those guesting on Profanation are keyboardist Bernie Worrell and a series of vocalists ranging from Iggy Pop to Wu-Tang Clan alumnus Killah Priest.

The album opens with a “Caution,” a hammering industrial intro number featuring a shredding Buckethead, scratching turntables, and some cookie monster vocals from (1960-2010), a hip hop musician whose first collaboration with Laswell dates to the late 1980s. As the listener gives their head a shake trying to compute what they just heard, a thickly accented Jamaican singer known as Hawkman chimes in with a groove atop a touch of funk from Laswell’s bass in “Worship.” Vocals are traded with Maximum Bob, the singer of Buckethead’s first band (The Deli Creeps) from the early 1990s. It’s a bizarre pairing of guests but works excellently, and it is easily the catchiest song on the album.   my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The one-two punch in styles between "Caution" and "Worship" offers a taste of what's to come. Each of the first seven tracks features a different vocalist, and each of them bring a different style to the album. Immediately identifiable is Iggy Pop on "Furies," a slower number with his tongue-in-cheek intro of “Jesus is a playboy, and the world’s on fire…” peppered by a clever range of effects. Serj Tankian, in one of his many guest appearances since System Of A Down stopped recording, sings on “Sulfur And Cheese.” Another strong number, Tankian gets to show off both sides of his voice from the tender intro and outro, to a belting chorus of bizarre lyrics not unlike those in the goofier works on SOAD. “Galaxies” featuring Killah Priest and “Revelations Part 2,” the second track to feature Rammellzee, are spoken-word numbers that capture Laswell and Buckethead’s abilities to blend with different styles – especially “Revelations Part 2.” From Rammellzee’s delivery of lyrics, to Buckethead's embrace of the wah pedal, to the funked up groove of Laswell, Brain, and Bernie Worrell with some turntables to boot...? It’s a mix of styles that turns out great.

Admittedly, not all guest tracks are winners. I never came to appreciate Mike Patton’s work with Mr. Bungle or Fantômas, and his contribution on “Larynx” doesn’t do much to change that. Drum ‘n’ bass artist Dr. Israel’s “Ancient World” zig-zags in one ear and out the other. And Rammellzee's third number, “Garbage God's,” doesn’t have the punch or groove of his first two. But for an album that tries to incorporate a variety of singers, the results are quite positive.

Profanation closes with two instrumentals, “Babylon Blackout” and “Endtime.” Reminiscent of material on Buckethead’s soothing atmospheric records such as Electric Sea and Population Override, it’s a great way to wind down from a smorgasbord of styles spread over 48 minutes.

While the album takes multiple listens and a bit of patience to appreciate, it gives a great sample of what Laswell, Buckethead, and Brain could produce together as Praxis over the group’s 15-year lifespan. Released in the United States in 2011, three years after its debut in Japan, the version of Profanation available on iTunes features a pair of live tracks added as a bonus – which, if to the listener’s liking, makes the band's performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee 2004 a worthy follow-up. 

Rating: B+

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