Bass Communion - Ghosts On Magnetic Tape (Headphone Dust)
review by Dave Cable

Track Listing

Part I = 12.45
Part II = 07.02
Part III = 10.15
Part IV = 08.17
Part V = 18.48



For those unfamiliar with Bass Communion it is in fact the brainchild of none other than Steven Wilson of classic rock band Porcupine Tree. However in complete contrast to the latter and his other outlets, the kraut-rock influenced I. E. M. and the art-pop of No-Man, Steven explores the realms of deep ambience creating dark, otherworldly soundscapes with an almost filmic quality. It must be said though that this music will be not be to everyone‚s taste and it can be quite challenging at times but you have to admire the sheer talent and brilliance of its creator who ventures out into these different avenues of music. He is certainly a musical Midas who perfects his art at every level.

Ghosts on Magnetic Tape is the third (official) full length studio album from Bass Communion and is not for the faint hearted! As the subject matter suggests one would expect a release of dark orientated compositions which is exactly what is presented here within its 5 tracks of varying length and structure.

The album certainly lives up to its title so without further ado lets‚ take a trip into darkness!

Track 1 begins with a low, panning synth drone which eventually shifts up an octave or so. White noise effects combine at this point to increase the atmosphere and at the 1:30 mark we are treated to a simple delayed piano motif. The drone disappears into the ether at around the 4 minute mark leaving the effects to work for themselves. It is not long before the drone makes a re-appearance but new effects are added and at the 6 minute mark the piano returns. At 9 minutes the sound of cracking firewood appears taking the track forward to its near conclusion. To lead us into a false sense of security approximately a minute before the end, this track disappears under the sounds of distant effects then a low, almost orchestral like menacing underscore surfaces briefly taking us through to the end where it cuts out abruptly.

Track 2 lightens the load slightly by replacing the low drone with a delayed solo voice, which has a distinct, somewhat heavenly feel to it almost sounding like a lone choir boy, his voice echoing through the corridors of time. One would expect the track to build upon its foundation which it does to some extent but perhaps not in the direction to be expected. One could almost imagine this track heading into majestic territory but Steven decides not to go too light on the subject matter at hand and keeps the piece going with addition of simple effects and underlying pads. This track fades out with the sounds of water based effects and low drone.

Track 3 enters the darkness again through its low white noise effects that rumble through the system. After the first minute dripping effects are added together with low, intermittent drones. This moves forward into slightly organic territory where it reaches it peak. At just under 4 minutes there is an inclusion of unusual voice type effects then if this wasn‚t enough the appearance of strange bird sounds, buried low in the mix. The overall intensity of this track increases with its melting pot of effects, and otherworldly goings on. At the 8 minute mark the piece takes on an altogether lighter feel but that is soon to change with strange, almost breathing type effects a minute later. The track eventually fades out into a stream of simple effects.

Track 4 begins with yet more of the white noise effects, this time sounding somewhat like tape interference. A pleasant but almost menacing layered synth drone enters the foray and the overall effect is that of a subdued saxophone. At 2:30 there is an inclusion of expanding synth pads and refined tympani styled bass undercurrents. There is a distinct filmic quality to this piece and believe it or not this is possibly the most accessible track on the album although one should not take it too lightly.

Track 5 starts with, yet again more effects. But then a low, orchestral styled motif is briefly illustrated, somewhat reminiscent of your typical dark underscore for a haunted house movie. Unfortunately this effectiveness is short lived and at around the 2 minute mark this disappears, leaving the listener longing for it‚s uprising. Under a wash of refined storm effects distant whistling sounds emanate through the speakers and at around 4:30 the sounds of clunking machinery can be heard but kept way back in the mix. At around the 7 minute mark a light drone finds its way through and is then joined with the sounds of flute, courtesy of Theo Travis. To build on all of this a horn sound is then added to great effect, almost sounding like a distant siren on the horizon and eventually the storm effects return. At 16 minutes the track starts its long and winding descent into silence.

In conclusion you really have to listen to this album to appreciate it in its entirety but for those who are willing to do so will find an extremely thought provoking and remarkable work with its moments of dark beauty.

This is certainly Dark Matter‚ of the highest calibre!

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