Steve Lawson has spent much of his career exploring the front edge of musical and technological possibility, in terms of the sounds that one bass player can make, the ways that musical recordings can be constructed, the ways that musicians can talk to listeners, and the ways that recordings can be distributed to them. He’s not the only one out there ahead of the curve: much independent hip-hop is released straight to YouTube, making the actual audio file something of an irrelevance, and poverty has been a great impetus for innovation in various parts of the world, with mobile phones…
Tag: solo bass
Daniele Camarda – Sound Act (solo bass guitar)
Daniele Camarda effectively straddles two zones of musical practice, invoking two distinct sets of assumptions about sound, art and how they relate to each other. He is a solo bass guitar performer, employing an advanced technique on an extended range (seven string) instrument; this is an unusual thing to be, but not unprecedented, and for the last couple of decades various musicians have been demonstrating to the world that the bass guitar can not only lead an ensemble, but transcend it entirely. These bass players have operated in a number of ways, producing textures that range from the ambient to the brutal, some using drum machines and samples, some employing live-looping technology, some performing in total bare-bones …
Various Artists – Singles and EPs
There are ‘pieces’ that are undeniably rap, and definitely not poetry, such as The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and there are others that are undeniably poetry, and definitely not rap, such as John Donne’s Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going To Bed. This emphatic distinction is a matter of customary usage however, not of hard and fast definitions, and to look for the precise boundary between the two is to fall into an essentialist fallacy. Nevertheless, many assume the existence of such a defensible frontier, which can make for a strong reaction to its penetration, either of outrage or amazement. The Ruby Kid straddles that imaginary barrier without difficulty; the songs/poems/raps on Strange, Lively & Commonplace are both one …
Various Artists – Album Roundup
This is a record that gets straight down to business, a short, kinetic acoustic guitar intro prefacing a series of remarks, delivered with such visceral charisma that it almost doesn’t matter what they mean; the fact that they mean a lot imbues this music with a density that belies its simplicity and lack of frills. You Save You are a duo, performing material of a texture that might be delivered by a single musician (apart from some simple percussion, presumably operated by the singer), but it’s very clearly two people’s energy on Secondhand Suits And Cheap Sunglasses (or maybe ten people’s!). The guitar playing is raw acoustic rock ‘n’ roll, and the vocals hover between declamation and raspy punkish singing.
Various Artists – Album Roundup
Glockamole is a great name for a comedy hip-hop record. There’s clearly a lot of wordplay left in ripping the piss out of hip-hop’s tropes and clichés, but I have to say there are probably not many jokes left in it. It’s a well worked mine, especially gangsta rap, bearing in mind that everything N.W.A. released after Straight Outta Compton was basically a joke. No, it takes more to make a funny hip-hop record than just pointing out how ludicrous hip-hop is, or being incongruously self-deprecating. It requires some comic creativity to raise a laugh in any medium, but luckily for me, I find Fat Ross pretty darn funny.
Simon Little – The Knowledge Of Things To Come (solo bass/ ambient)
Simon Little’s EP Rejectamenta, ostensibly composed of material rejected for inclusion on this album, was an interesting recording in its own right, and implied certain promises about the creative direction in which Little might be moving. I’m glad to say, he’s as good as his word. Before I even start to address the compositional and artistic aspects of The Knowledge Of Things To Come, it’s very pleasing to hear an audible development in Simon Little the bass player. There is a sense of maturity about his melodic improvisation…
Alun Vaughan – The Kindness Of Strangers (solo bass)
The long standing association between the solo bass release and a meaningless display of rippling technical muscularity is thankfully receding into history. It’s reasonable that it should have come about: to play something that is more agile and melodic than the traditional low thump of a bassline requires rather more application on a bass than on a guitar, and there was also, I think, a sense that if the bass player wasn’t displaying some extraordinary chops, why didn’t they stay at the back next to the drummer? The other thing of course, is that an album of any one instrument needs something to keep the listener’s attention, and even the most musical of players can make good use of some pyrotechnics to vary the texture.
Steve Lawson – 11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything (ambient)
The pieces on this album are indeed highly atmospheric, but don’t let this lead you to believe that ambience is all, or even principally, what the music is about. The principal quality of these tunes, their defining feature, and the central locus of Lawson’s creative effort, is melody.
Simon Little – Rejectamenta (ambient/ jazz)
This is a five track collection of material Simon Little elected not to include on his forthcoming second album. These decisions were not made because the tunes didn’t make the grade, but because he felt they weren’t a good fit: they are, however, a good fit with each other, and represent a convincing development of his work on Mandala
Simon Little – Mandala (ambient/ solo bass/ jazz)
One of the tracks on this album is titled ‘Ohm Is Where The Art Is’: it’s awfully tempting to run with that, and build a critical edifice around the idea of ‘ohm’ signifying a metaphorical sense of impedance or resistance, but to be honest, I’m pretty sure Simon Little’s artistic strategy is more straightforward than that. He doesn’t ask us to swallow anything that’s difficult to digest, or set out to challenge our ideas about music, but that’s not to say that his music isn’t experimental or progressive: it’s both.