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Bass Communion - Bass Communion CD (album) cover


Bass Communion


Progressive Electronic

3.48 | 51 ratings

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4 stars For those that don't already know, Bass Communion is Steven Wilson. Now before you get all excited, for anything under the Bass Communion title, don't expect music similar to Porcupine Tree, No-man, or most anything directly under Steven Wilson's solo albums. You will be disappointed if you expect that you are going to hear that kind of music. What you will hear are experimental tracks, most of them very long and ambient, minimal and dronelike. If you expect that, then you are going to know what you are getting into. So many people see SW's name attached to this project and come away frustrated and disappointed. However, if you know you are instead going to get textural, audio-paintings, then you know what to expect and you will find that BC is some of the best of this type of recording around.

This is not music in the traditional sense as much as it is soundscapes with a lot of experimentation. They are long works, designed to but you into some type of space or environment. They are great for meditation or for just enjoyment. I find them most effective if you close your eyes, and let the music take you wherever your mind wants to wander under the influence of the sounds.

I believe the first three albums in particular, named Bass Communion I, II, and III, are the best entry points to determine if this music is for you. These first albums have more of a musical quality to them, while the later albums, for the most part, are more experimental and ambient. SW wanted to do soundscapes similar to the more ambient and experimental works of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, but he does it with very few synthesizers, relying more on source material that has been processed, manipulated and layered. Some of the tracks are original while others rely heavily on source material and field recordings that have been manipulated.

So now you know what you are getting into here, let's take a look at this album 'Bass Communion I'. We start off with a very short track, just over a minute, called 'Shopping'. It sounds like a needle being dropped on a record, then the crackling noises of the record playing. There are very soft sounds playing in the background that you have to listen closely for, just sustained chords playing.

Next we have 'Drugged' which features saxophone work by Theo Travis. It seems to be an improvised and dissonant performance. Soon, the music is layered on top of each other. Around the 2:30 mark, more sustained tones come in, sounding like an organ, but they could be just slowed down sax layers. These are the only sounds playing for now, no percussion or anything else. This sounds a lot like Paul Winter's more ambient music. It is very peaceful and soothing. This continues until the 9 minute mark when single strummed and sustained guitar chords suddenly start. This all fades after 13 minutes.

'Sleep Etc.' comes next with some layered sounds. There is a texture like a watery sound which could be processed static or something. Chimes with manipulated tones play over the top, with a 'wet' percussive noise continuing along. Lower bent drones fade in and out like a foghorn and slowly become more prominent. At about the 6:30 mark, there are echoing percussive noises that become audible. As the drones become more prominent, there is a feeling of foreboding. After 13 minutes, these sounds all fade. 'Orphan Coal' starts off with a rhythmic, percussive pattern, that sound almost like congas. Textured musical sounds, a beeping noise and echoing, wordless vocal sounds come in and out, along with a strange sudden percussion that appears to imitate the vocal sounds. At 3 minutes, sustained chords fade in and out. Soon after, a 3 note bass pattern also repeats on occasion. The repeating percussion suddenly drops out of the mix at the 7:30 mark, and the other sounds continue until they fade after 10 minutes.

Finally, there is one more track, also named 'Drugged' like the 2nd track. This one goes for over 24 minutes. It is based on a 7 second looped Soundscape recording made by Robert Fripp. The atmospheric feel of this track comes from the processing and manipulation of that recording, where sounds are drawn out and shortened in different ways. It even sounds like an organ playing over the top of the layers, but again I don't know if it's an actual organ or just processed and sustained notes. Like the first 'Drugged' track, this one is blissful and serene. It also gets more musical as higher notes come in and swirl around in the mix. An almost vocal sounding layer is added in also, giving everything a spatial quality. As time passes, the sounds vary slightly and also swell slowly.

Overall, this is not music you listen to in a traditional sense, but it is music that will bring on a peaceful feeling. It is mostly ambient, so go into it knowing that. The slowly changing sounds cause the music to flow forward and will send your mind into bliss if you allow it to. Again, if you are curious about this music, then these first 3 albums are the ones to get for first-timers to see if it appeals to you. Lovers of the more experimental Tangerine Dream music or Labradford's music will also love this. This is top quality ambient and experimental music, both of the 'Drugged' tracks being worth the price of admission, with the other tracks included to supply variance. But, as I said at the beginning, don't come into this with any expectations of past SW music, and maybe you will find it touches you also. In addition to this, try to not notice time passing and things will be more effective.

TCat | 4/5 |


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