Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Intergalactic Bass Transmissions

2 Live Crew - Ghetto Bass

There's a book out there waiting to be written (hopefully by Simon Reynolds), entitled The Evolution of the Bass in Dance Music. I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to know where to begin (or end or what to write in the middle), but my first experience of bass as something that wasn't a four-stringed instrument wielded by Mark King was through the 2 Live Crew back in the mid-Eighties. Before they went all cartoon porno they used to be part of the Miami bass scene releasing records like Ghetto Bass (posted above), which had (for the time) sub-bass that the speakers on my crappy ghettoblaster definitely weren't equipped to deal with.

If I had the time or the inclination I'd trace my bassline journey from here in infinite detail, but instead we'll pick up the trail in 1991 as the rave scene exploded and producers made their basslines more and more ridiculous in order to mess with raver's addled minds. I'm talking about Beltram's Energy Flash, the Hypnotist's Death by Dub (above), Radio Babylon by Meat Beat Manifesto, LFO by LFO, ... I could go on and on and on and on.

Alex Reece - Pulp Fiction

Brief detour down memory lane.... I went to a rave somewhere in Dorset in 1995, and the main action was taking place in a large cattle shed where the DJ was spinning banging techno - normally my bag, but I got a bit bored and wandered off. I stumbled (literally) upon a small shed, which seemed to be crammed full of pretty smiling girls all swaying hypnotically in time to a sparse, minimal track with the sickest, window-rattling bassline I'd ever heard (turned out to be Pulp Fiction by Alex Reece). It got a couple of rewinds and I needed scraping off the ceiling before I went home that night. Couldn't hear properly for a week. And if you're talking about sexy dnb basslines (I was), then I can't not mention PFM's One and Only - but I already waxed on that one at length here. And if you're talking about sick dnb b-lines (we are) try these three belters -

DJ Trace - Mutant Revisited

Bad Company - The Nine.

Ed Rush & Optical - Pacman (Ram Trilogy Remix)

Starkey - Fidelio

But wait! There is a point to this disjointed bass-related musing and here it is - Starkey's got a new album out (Ear Drums and Black Holes, Planet Mu, April 19, 2010) and he's absolutely fckng NAILED it. He calls the music he makes "Street Bass" but "Space Bass" might be more appropriate as he is taking low-end rumblings into another galaxy. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Starkey shares his chosen moniker with "a global supplier of technologically advanced hearing products that assist with hearing loss". Too many nights with your head in the bins listening to this and you'll need them.

Unlike a lot of the dark, minimal dubstep out there, the Philadelphia-based wunderkid is blending his gnarly space bass emissions with gorgeous, warm synths - check Fidelio. It starts off sounding like the incidental music from 2001: A Space Odyssey , before Starkey drops the bass along with a terse, military beat. Then, mid-flow, it breaks off into a melodic interlude that Boards of Canada would be proud of. Elsewhere on Ear Drums... are collaborations with grime artist P-Money and the Texan MC Cerebral Vortex that aren't a million miles away from the prototype booty bass of the 2 Live Crew. And we've come full circle...

Pre-order Ear Drums and Black Holes from Boomkat
Starkey website
Starkey at Planet Mu
Starkey MySpace