Twenty twenty-three begins with the releases of two transnational collaborations of textural sound art featuring electronics and basses of diverse sorts.
Bad Groupy, a new transatlantic duo, appears to be the fruit of Washington, DC experimental musician Jeff Surak’s residence in Berlin this past summer. (Another product of that stay, a duet recording with the superb violinist Biliana Voutchkova, was reviewed recently in these pages.) The other half of Bad Groupy is Hamburg-based Estonian Kris Kuldkepp, who plays electric bass, double bass, and electronics. This is their second release; their first, the EP Check-in Ko, came out this past September. The Last Piece of Graphite was recorded in autumn, 2022 in different locations indoors and out in Hamburg and Washington with analogue electronics, double bass, electric bass, guitar, objects, and tapes. The four tracks on the album highlight the duo’s predilection for a timbrally-based sound art of layered electronic or quasi-electronic abstraction. Elevator Talk superimposes undulating sounds over danceable beats; Archive of Generic Legs stacks high-frequency beeps—like morse code from another planet—atop an undertow of rough-surfaced, arco double bass; History Does Not Repeat Its Stuck is a drone piece of variable density running through a wide range of frequencies. Surak and Kuldkepp bring their multilayered texturality to its acme in the concluding twenty-minute-long Black Magic of Audio Seduction.
Guro Skumsnes Moe and Philippe Petit’s self-titled release features the French analogue synthesizer master with Norwegian Moe, who in addition to electric bass and vocals is represented here on the Octobass, a rare, enormous, three-string double bass that sounds in a rumblingly low register. The instrument is a strong presence on the release’s two long tracks—its strings vibrate at such a low frequency one can almost see them as they underscore the sonic kaleidoscope thrown out by Petit’s EMI synth and turntables. The third track, a two-minute interlude between the two longer pieces, offers an economical distillation of the duo’s collective sound.