Music

Christopher Lawrence: All Or Nothing

Stefan Braidwood

Christopher Lawrence

All or Nothing

Label: Kinkybeat
US Release Date: 2004-06-29
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

What's in a name, eh? Trance. A short, unevocative word for a musical genre. Feasible connotations: metronomic repetition, mindlessness, a blankness in the memory, an emptiness. Not the most inviting of monikers. Names are very important when it comes to instrumental music, for the simple reason that, as there is no way to puzzle out just what the artist is trying to articulate or capture (if anything) by passive consumption of the medium, our consciousness needs tools or cues in order to place it into a framework of other experiences; handles by which the composition can be removed from the foreign, creative abstract and slotted into the lattice of the other senses and subjective memory. Obviously, music will sometimes prompt highly personal and vivid sensation in the listener from the moment it is first experienced, whether or not that listener is aware of what the composition means to the artist. And any music that has personal history will have accrued 'real world' connotations, even if they're only based around where he or she was when they listened to it.

Bet you people would take Beethoven's Sixth a lot less seriously if he'd called it Dreams After Too Much Cheese, though.

Trance, then, might actually be spectacularly well named, because (on the evidence of this album at least) it has virtually no distinguishing features at all. Nothing really comes to mind when listening to All or Nothing apart from the occasional suggestion that it might make good high-speed driving music, ie. rhythmic backdrop to a high-concentration, minimum-thought activity. I'm pretty sure that's just a result of too many unimaginative Hollywood chase scene soundtracks, though. If anything, the music actually drains thought -- I had to turn my Discman off and get blood flowing through my brain again by pacing up and down for several minutes before I could actually recall the Sixth's distinctive motif, for example. That was quite scary.

Trance enthusiasts might well suggest that this music is slick, pounding and well-produced, and that I'm simply generalising about trance because I don't "understand" or enjoy the genre. Heck, it's made by Christopher Lawrence, whom LA Weekly described as being "to the States what Paul Oakenfold is to the UK"; I should darn well show some respect. Newsflash, people: Paul Oakenfold's last album was total garbage. And whilst I may not listen to trance much, I do listen to (and love) a lot of pounding, repetitive, well-produced dance music. And none, but none of it, is as empty and constrictive as this.

Yes, Christopher Lawrence's basslines are deep and full, but they don't do anything, and that's a complaint coming from a self-professed bass addict. They just repeat themselves vaguely until the track fades out, much like all the other track components, allowing for the odd breakdown or beat switch. Yes, the higher tempo tracks have a relentless energy too them, but then so has a pneumatic drill. Everything is mechanical, and I don't mean that in a Kraftwerk/Bauhaus, gleaming-effective-minimalism way either, just that there's not an ounce of imagination of display. This is probably the most personality-free record I've ever heard, not so much composed as assembled.

Coming full circle with the nomenclature thing, his track titles only make Lawrence's imagination deficiency more glaring: "Freefall", "Hot Rod", "Nitro", "Renegade", "Rush Hour"... it's the dropped cast of Transformers, isn't it? There's a track called "Mind Eraser", which is accurate for all the wrong reasons, and -- get this -- an "Untitled Dub With Noises". Grief. Still, I suppose I can't complain that I wasn't warned.

Perhaps I'm being unduly unkind, but then he's the one who chose such a portentous title. In fact, even totally overblown Wagnerian dramatics would have done these dry, impersonal tracks a world of good. This remains identikit trance that could have been made by anyone any time in the last decade or so, and needs be heard by no-one. Heck, he could have called it "Rose"; Ice Cold and Shakespeare would still agree it was dung.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.