Steven Wilson

Bass Communion

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After starting with the barely there snippet "Shopping," consisting of vinyl crackle and near-inaudible soft tones, the first Bass Communion album gets down to business with Theo Travis' guest sax work on "Drugged," number one of two songs by that name on the release. The album's other temporary visitor is Robert Fripp, sampled and otherwise distorted and looped by Steven Wilson for the other "Drugged" -- otherwise, it's Wilson all the way, creating his own version of ambient music. While comparisons to the works of Eno and others are perhaps inevitable, Wilson doesn't sound like he's trying to ape anybody in particular, but merely pursuing one branch of his own varied musical ends. There's a hint of his dreamier Porcupine Tree work, but by and large Bass Communion stands well on its own. Wilson's got a good ear for introducing something new at just about the right time -- thus the ringing guitar chord that suddenly appears clearly in the first "Drugged," even as the sax and overall sonic textures sweetly bliss away. "Sleep Etc.," besides having a brilliant title, succeeds due to its combination of tropes -- individually, the bells, low crumbling rhythm (water?), and repetitive, building background drone could work as well, but together they up the ante, filling the scope of the track without cluttering it. Hints of Wilson's later work with (and inspiration by) Muslimgauze crop up most on "Orphan Coal"; besides having the most overt use of dub via abbreviated basslines and echoed vocal sounds, there's a buried, clattering rhythm reminiscent of Bryn Jones' more alien-sounding compositions. As for the Fripp-assisted "Drugged" itself, running for nearly a half-hour, it's most successful, revolving around a series of central repeated melodies and calling to mind a slightly more freeform version of Labradford's epic hush. Wherever and however the Fripp sample is used, it's used very well indeed.

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