AMN Reviews: Crows Labyrinth / Distant Fires Burning / Jon Doe One / Stratosphere – Bassbients (2022; Móatún 7)

The idea was simple enough. Gather together four electric bassists, in this case, Crows Labyrinth (Theo Tol), Distant Fires Burning (Gert De Meester), Jon Doe One (Hannes d’Hoine), and Stratosphere (Ronald Mariën). Each would record a solo bass track, then pass it on to the next bassist who would add his own contributions to it, then pass it on to the next, and so on. The result is four tracks, each in the 6-10 minute range and with overdubs from all four contributors.

While these pieces all exhibit the expected low-end rumbling and incorporate an ambient nature suggested by the album’s title, the pure range of sounds coming from the instruments and subsequent processing is quite broad. This includes mid-range and high-end drones that either linger or waft in and out. Individual notes played in a somewhat conventional fashion are present but not prevalent. But when they do appear it is in the form of improvised lines or looped riffs. On occasion, the mechanics of bass playing can be heard with the popping of notes or the vibration of string-on-neck. Other passages are more angular or textural, with scratching, abstract noise, or twisted grooves. And where the album really shines is when such techniques are layered atop one another in various combinations, giving the listener a busy and dense platform for active engagement.

These four experimentalists cited Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell as inspirations. But what they have created on this album is something that manages to transcend influence and genre. Very well done.

Bassbients will be released on May 2 by the Móatún 7 label.