Monday, January 18, 2010
BASS COMMUNION "CHIAROSCURO" (Headphone Dust)
An extremely limited (and extremely expensive) CD documenting a rare (the first!) live appearance by Steven Wilson, aka Bass Communion, at a festival curated by the mighty Fear Falls Burning. Across numerous releases Bass Communion is very hard to pin down. The core elements remain the same (bass and drone) but the presentation is always very different and varied, making Steven Wilson's project one of the best of the "laptop" droners-whether you'll get a piece of distorted room crushing bass vomit or some jazz-inflected Tortoise-esque-but-way-better-than-they-could-ever-hope-to-be style post rock, it will almost always be expressive, engaging, textured and interesting. Bass Communion has always rewarded deep listening. So imagine my disappointment at this rather lackluster live outing, perplexing all the more because by any measure Bass Communion should totally DESTROY in the live setting. i don't see how they couldn't. The volume must be an event to behold (at least if the venue's sound system is decent). Since i wasn't there i don't know about the actual volume but the performance on this CD is pretty fucking boring. I've never felt that way about Bass Communion before and like i said, it was sort of shocking. The performance is comprised of two tracks, the opener being a 37 minute snooze-athon dominated by atonal guitar wisps and aggravating rises and falls in volume. The track never gets close to any sort apex despite an ever-present attempt at creating tension and even the sporadic fallbacks to bass-heavy drone-throb do little to alleviate the boredom or advance the piece. It's just kinda there, hanging around, not really caring if you're paying attention or not and not doing anything to really engage you either. The second piece fairs a little better but it's only seven minutes-i guess Steven figured that the audience would lose interest unless he was constantly "changing things up" soundwise. This piece is much more familiar Bass Communion territory and reminds me a lot of the work he did on "Molotov and Haze", the glacial slab of glitch-sludge hell that he recorded for Important Records last year. Unfortunately it ends way too soon, the ladder to transcendence cut off many, many rungs shy of the summit. I don't know if it was first-ever performance jitters or just the hard to accept truth that guys playing laptops live is stupid as hell, but this is pretty much a miss. Even more mysterious is how Steven Wilson can be involved with a band as terrible as Porcupine Tree.