second release to come my way this month from Israeli egomaniac Maor
Appelbaum, this one led me to expect a collection of low-frequency
drones, going by the title. But an inspection of the inlay card reveals
all - the name refers to the fact that it consists entirely of the processed
sounds of bass guitars. Not that this is obvious from the music! In fact
I'd listened to the CD a couple of times, none the wiser, before I bothered
reading the liner notes. If you think that means my critical skills suck
then I dare you to pick it out of a line-up in a blind listening test.
I don't know how much is live performance with effects pedals and how
much is digital manipulation and editing, but the chimes, throbs, sweeps
and drones sounds that make up this album are like nothing I've heard
a bass produce before.
It has to be said - brutal honesty time - that the album's impact is somewhat
hampered by the poor choice of opening track. 'Alone Suffering And
Screaming' is atonal and arrhythmic in all the wrong ways,
meaning it sounds pointlessly unwieldy rather than daringly experimental.
But having got that out of the way, the rest of the album has some mesmerising,
expressive and occasionally beautiful soundscapes in store. 'Out-law'
and 'Coming Home' touch on the fringes of Coil's
more ambient realms, while "The Morning After" could almost
Gristle in space-out mode. I'd love to see how something like "Printing
Images" would work as a performance piece, but to achieve that density
and depth of sound would require three or four bassists plus a floor gimp
running between them and adjusting their pedals at the right moments.
There's a warm lo-fi fuzziness to it all that sets it apart from a lot
of modern avant-garde music, part of which is undoubtedly due to Appelbaum's
trademark production style (see my Vectorscope
review), but some of which must surely be down to pick-up noise from the
basses themselves. Every so often you can make out a twang or pop that
sounds like a string being plucked, and each time it's a surprise. The
aptly-named 'Experiments' contains the only recognisable guitar
playing on the whole album, and while it works texturally, it comes across
as a bit ad-hoc musically, sitting unfomcortably on the drones
and pulses without much actual integration. For that matter, the rising
and falling patterns on "The Last One" sound a little too much
like the arpeggiated keyboards of 70s prog rock for comfort. Think Rick
Wakeman in a cape. But the fact that Appelbaum's managed to tease
such sounds out of a bass guitar at all is quite an achievement. Ten out
of ten for purity of process but a little more selectivity might help.