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Bass Communion - Ghosts On Magnetic Tape CD (album) cover


Bass Communion

Progressive Electronic

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Tom Ozric
4 stars Steven Wilson is a very busy individual, dividing up his time between production duties, various collaborations and side-projects outside of his main occupation, Porcupine Tree. Rarely does his quality and inspiration dip. BASS COMMUNION is his minimalist ambient experiment, and 'Ghosts on Magnetic Tape' is a fine creation of subtle murmurings, scratching noises and soft, dark drones. These various noises are reputed to be actual recordings of hauntings and super-natural phenomena. Wilson has incorporated these sounds with some eerie atmospheres, and it's quite creepy to listen to in the dark - well, it just doesn't have the same vibe during the day. The closest similarity that I can muster would be with the David Sylvian and Holger Czukay projects, or maybe even Peter Hammill on his 'Loops and Reels' release (the track entitled 'The Bells! The Bells!' for those that are curious), but stripped down. Each part of this album bares a similar mood, sound and structure, very difficult to differentiate, but the side-long Part V stands out, with help from Theo Travis, adding some sublime flute sounds. As with most SW things, this has received a double LP pressing on murky, olive-green vinyl (a very fitting colour), and expanded with a 16 min+ out-take accommodating the fourth side. This piece is somewhat relentless and ever more sinister than the rest. This one actually scares me ! I probably cannot justify this album in such few words as this, and it's a very daunting task to rate such a thing, but if the idea of taking a transcendental voyage through the netherworld sounds exciting, then this may be your thing. I'll leave it with 4 stars.
Report this review (#160635)
Posted Sunday, February 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well....I love Porcupine Tree....and Blackfield.....and I thought I would try Bass Communion.... This is nothing like any of those bands.....Steven Wilson is really out there tryng something different here..... I also enjoy Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze....and a few other Electronic bands.....heading in the ambient direction......but this album makes Tangerine Dream look like foot tapping fiddle music in comparison.....There's not a lot of real music here at all.....There's a lot of background noises that sort of evolve into something that makes you think of music........ I am not tempted to get any further Bass Communion albums.....but this is something that you could play if you are looking to zone out completely...... I don't mind listening to it every once in a while.....
Report this review (#166098)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Porcupine Tree mainman Steven Wilson seems to have his musical fingers in more pies than just about anyone I can think of. Bass Communion is one of his ambient projects. I've never been the biggest fan of ambient soundscapes, they're usually something I can only listen to in small doses but I must admit to rather liking Ghosts On Magnetic Tape. It's based around apparently genuine recordings of the dead communicating with the living which Wilson has weaved into his soundscapes. Now whether you believe in this sort of stuff or not is another matter but what I can say is that Wilson has successfully created a suitably eerie backdrop for these recordings on 5 separate pieces.

Supernatural crackles and vague voice sounds are heard over droning ambient backdrops creating a genuinely dark and disturbing at times sounding album. Definitely an album to lay back and listen to in the dark for maximum impact.

Since its original release it has now been re-released with a bonus disc containing the Andrew Liles reconstructions. Steven Wilson is of the opinion that this version is even creepier than his original mixes but I must admit to for the most part preferring Wilson's versions; the album just seems to flow that much better.

I don't think I'll be tempted to go out and buy all the Bass Communion Cd's but for the occasional eerie chill out this one will do fine. 3 ― stars.

Report this review (#204662)
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ghosts on Magnetic Tape sounded intriguing to me. I don't believe in ghosts, but they usually make for a great concept.

Unfortunately, with this album, I found myself losing interest quite quickly. Ghosts on Magnetic Tape is dark ambient, like Lustmord, but much more minimalist and, honestly, a little bit creepier. I do enjoy some dark ambient (much more so than happy ambience), but this album is not engaging at all. The electronic portion of this album consists of dark and airy drones and resonances that are barely audible sometimes, and they fade in and out of the soundscape. There are some field recordings incorporated into the mix, created from various areas and maybe even possibly authentic ghost communication recordings from a seance. The field recordings mixed with the electronic soundscape really does make for a highly atmospheric album, soundtracking your nightmares, but I personally just can't get sucked in by it or enjoy it at all. For the ambience that I enjoy listening to, this album is just too ambient.

After being satisfied with Bass Communion (I), I have to say that I will continue listening to Bass Communion in hopes of finding similarly pleasing music that I can be sucked into, enjoying all of the soundscape in its entirety with out becoming restless. I'd recommend Ghosts on Magnetic Tape to fans of Lustmord's chillest music.

Report this review (#441146)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bass Communion was always a mystery to me. First time I have heard this, I found out myself thinking why was Steven Wilson losing his precious time, working in so many musical projects. BS was for me, his worse. It his nothing compared with PT, or No-man, even less Blackfield. So, I found out myself hearing this kind of ambience structures, more known as drone music. Well, I don't think I can really call it music. itīs more a combination of noises, something like I am watching an horror movie and in the background, thereīs something hidden like as if is going to submerge at any moment. Curiously, this album specifically, had captivated my total attention. More, than others previous albums. Maybe because thereīs a lack of electronic sounds, what is good for such a theme that which involves a concept around the Spiritualism. If you believe in ghosts, then itīs a must have for any believer of this theme. And I guess, I am one of those. Guilty as charged! So, Ghosts on Magnetic Tape make you feel like a voyageur in unknown territory.

Does SW lost his precious time in here? No, not this one.

The packaging is fantastic. It comes in a digipack with great dark pictures.

My four stars in this review, is because the songs are a little bit longer, what makes me feel a little bit bored from time to time. Apart from that, nothing more to declare.

Report this review (#576246)
Posted Sunday, November 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steven Wilson comes over all Brian Eno on his Bass Communion projects, and Ghosts On Magnetic Tape is no exception. Actually, I'd be inclined to say a better comparison this time around is Tangerine Dream's Zeit, since the compositions here have the same slow, glacial, drone-like quality to them. With crackling and spitting tape noises emerging here and there, the impression that we are listening to an impossible transmission from the netherworld is expertly evoked, creating a haunting and sombre experience for the listener. Not a place to go if you're after more lively psychedelic fun in the vein of Porcupine Tree, but if your musical tastes tend towards the minimalistic ambient there's a lot of joy to be found with these ghosts.
Report this review (#660589)
Posted Friday, March 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars This is another exploration in minimalism from the prolific musician Steven Wilson. In producing the album "Damnation" for Opeth, and writing one of the songs for that album called "Death Whispered a Lullabye", Wilson said that a song doesn't have to be loud to be evil. Well, recording as Bass Communion, and particularly on this release, SW has definitely proved that to the extreme. This is very eerie and spooky sounding music, but very ambient and minimalistic. There is no rhythm here, it is all free flowing sound.

There is nothing electronic here, it is all organic sounds, some of them processed however. Other reviewers here have stated that these are sounds from recordings of the dead conversing with the living. This is not really true. It is, however, inspired by the work of Konstantin Raudive who tried to communicate with the dead and capture the sound on magnetic tape. Notice the key word here is "inspired". The sounds here are actually processed sounds from old 78 records, processed piano sounds, crackling sounds from old vinyl (which is pretty common on BC albums), and other atmospheric sounds from drones created from various sources. As romantic or intriguing as the idea of recordings of ghosts is, it is not really true. However, the sound is still eerie and definitely does sound as if it is recordings from beyond.

The album is definitely quiet and begs to be listened to in a quiet environment in order to hear all of the musical brushstrokes that are used to paint the bleak sonic pictures that are being created here. That's what these are, as are all of BC's works, aural paintings. To me, these tracks go by quickly when I am listening to them closely. That's what I find amazing because most of BC's compositions tend to last over 10 minutes. The last track on this album is over 18 minutes.

As eerie as this is, I find it strangely soothing. It's very nice listening for when you want to de- stress yourself. The best listening method is to sit back in a dark room with a pair of headphones, make sure they are good ones because even though this is minimalism, there are sound frequencies here that can destroy a bad set of speakers.

As much as I do love the work of BC, one does have to be in the right mood for it, and it usually only works well on specific occasions. It is not general purpose music, it is more for exploration or "mental medication" if you will. I would consider a few of BC's albums as essential studies of minimalism, but this one isn't one of them. It is, however, still an excellent addition to any ambient lovers library, because it doesn't really get much more ambient than this. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1394603)
Posted Sunday, April 5, 2015 | Review Permalink

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