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Bass Communion - Bass Communion (I) CD (album) cover

BASS COMMUNION (I)

Bass Communion

 

Progressive Electronic

3.36 | 29 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Without even realizing it at the time, Steven Wilson's debut `Bass Communion' album was my very first electronic album. I was right into my Porcupine Tree/Wilson love phase, eagerly snapping up anything the man put his name to, knowing that I would at least find something interesting with this release. Upon my initial listen almost 15 years ago, I had absolutely no idea what to make of it. I had never heard anything like it, and it barely even resembled music to my ears. It sounded like snippets of inane noise, throwaway scraps hurled together with no sense of direction. It took me some time before it all fell into place, at a very vulnerable time in my life where I seemed to suddenly relate to the cold, isolating and lonely introspection of the album.

Comprised of experimental short music samples, looped slight percussion, hypnotic drones and static, the pieces stretch into long, drifting and floating electronic soundscapes. Some reference points might be Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, but where those artists frequently make you think of deep space and alien worlds, Wilson's work is far more personal and human. This worryingly makes the album much easier to relate to, even if that means confronting feelings and emotions you'd rather push aside or avoid altogether.

After `Shopping's brief introductory crackle of static, `Drugged' has cut up pieces of Theo Travis' sax blowing in the distance, tormenting and howling in it's sadness. It frequently sounds quite flat and tuneless, giving the piece an uneasy sound. Wilson's somber organ slowly enters and wraps around the piece, Theo's sax becomes more reflective and mournful. Both slowly unwind and drift along for several minutes, heightening the sense of solitude and loneliness. Eventually a slowly strummed guitar enters, backed with an icy veil of ghostly synths. This track is later reprised at the end of the album in a longer 25 minute haunting ambient piece more along the lines of the above mentioned Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.

Cold glistening electronic fingerprints dance like raindrops around the spooky `Sleep, etc'. With it's unsettling mix of running water, thunderstorms, static and occasional harsh electronics, it makes your mind feel like it's moving in slow motion. Relentlessly predatory and threatening, definite horror movie soundtrack work here.

`Orphan Coal' has strangely wooden percussion, some seemingly comprised of voice samples, that blur into a hypnotic maze of maddening alarm-like loops, electronic washes that phase in and out, and brief heavy bass lines. Deeply fascinating and, although still uneasy, it's a little bit of a respite from the gloom of the rest of the album.

It's easy to understand the wildly varying opinions and reviews for this album. As much as it's made a huge impression on me over the years for it's emotion and depth, I also understand those who would find it inane, tedious and devoid of musical value altogether. I can listen to it one time and not connect with it at all, then the next be completely overwhelmed. It's the sort of album that guarantees you wont ever listen to it the same way twice.

The CD comes with five alternate covers, each with a very different abstract or surreal image associated with the five pieces on the album. I've always used the fourth one - `Orphan Coal', which has a photo of a deserted bridge and lonely city streets at night. This striking image perfectly captures the isolation and sadness of the album, and it compliments this emotional work for me perfectly.

A lonely, haunting and thoroughly immersive album I can relate to and connect with from time to time, sadly during my unhappier and lonelier moments. But it's albums like this that can make you truly feel human, that in moments of personal reflection force you to confront yourself. I hope more adventurous listeners might take the time to see how they respond to this powerful work.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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