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CD Feature/ Bass Communion: "Molotov and Haze"

img  Tobias
When Steven Wilson visited Klaus Schulze at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios this Summer as part of an interview session for the latter’s “Rheingold” DVD, he was hardly allowed more than a short introductory statement before the good-humoured German pioneer embarked on a seemingly endless talking spree, chatting about the good old times and unleashing a verbal firework on the ongoing fascination of electronic music in the 21st century. And yet, Wilson’s presence, as much as it may have seemed ephemeral for most of the monologue’s duration, was palpable throughout. For him, the meeting was as much about exchanging ideas as it was about getting answers to burning questions from a composer whose ideas and concepts have more or less openly influenced his own Bass Communion project.

The most important word for Wilson in relation to Krautrock, Schulze and the Berlin School of Electronics was “immersion”. While even the experimental outings of Porcupine Tree were still marked by a modular songwriting approach, thematic development, transitions and more or less traditional band structures, Bass Communion was consciously designed as a borderless playground for following down a single musical idea to where it took him without having to think of limiting factors such as length and listenability. Even Klaus Schulze himself once claimed that he wasn’t 100% sure whether or not he was actively perceiving his own music a couple of minutes into one of his epically proportioned pieces and as part of the audience, too, tracks enveloped you very much like an environment: You take in these sounds with your skin and with your ears alike.

Because his involvement in Porcupine Tree and No Man met with approval far beyond the handfull of dedicated insiders usually alloted to a genre like Prog Rock these days, these notions were allowed to grow without any kind of haste or hurry and far away from the deafening hollers of the media. Amazingly, “Molotov and Haze” is already the eighth Bass Communion album and it shows just how far Wilson has come in “defining” his perspective – a necessary evil when obvious, yet misleading genre deominations like “Drone” or “Ambient” are always conveniently close around the corner. Composed of four tracks, all of which extend comfortably beyond the ten minute mark with only grand finale “haze 1402” simmering softly for a full 23 minutes, it constitutes a kind of temporary summary of his aims and an acme of his abilities as a creator of dense and cohesive, yet weightless and multichromatic soundscapes.

On the outside, of course, the concept behind the album seems to conflict with this point of view. Two of the tracks are anything but mellow drift and take a turn towards noisy waters. “corrosive 1702”, especially, is an aggressive full-throttle tour de force built on a forceful foundation of blistering distortion, ebulliently gyrating Guitar washes and a single, anthemically monolithic symphonic chord block, whose aural granite is gradually washed around by plaintively wailing digital wah-wahs. On the opening “molotov 1502”, meanwhile, the wall of momentous overtones and mid-range fuzz merely serves as a cover-up for a surprising homage: After Wilson has heated up the track’s engine with a thundering Bass chord, he enters the music with a direct quote of the title track to Tangerine Dream’s classic “Phaedra”, before bringing a delicate and discreetly growing melody to the fore.

Very much in the vein of his heroes from the early 70s and in direct opposition to the linear strategy of techno, the decline of these pieces is more important than their buildup, just as much as the decay of a sound is awarded priority over his attack. Even though looping and repetition play a vital role, especially with regards to the strong live feeling of the works, so, too, do variation and subtle divergence. This is most apparent on the more quiet and sensual compositions, such as on “glacial 1602”, whose spherical introductory chord progression seems to play unchanged throughout the piece but is, in fact, never repeated the same way twice, second voices or ever so slight harmonic or dynamic alterations gently breaking the pattern into a feeling of immense peace and tranquility.

When I saw Bass Communion perform live in Antwerp this year, I was under the impression that the music might work even better in the quietude of one’s own home and this impression is confirmed by “Molotov and Haze” which requires several dedicated listens to extract all of its minute details. Already in the Schulze interview, Steven Wilson came across as a man in need of privacy and isolation for creating his very own brand of immersive soundtracks and maybe that’s how they should be appreciated as well: The fields of your imagination can do justice to this album much better than any concert hall ever could.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Bass Communion
Homepage: Bass Communion at MySpace
Homepage: Important Records

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