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Music Review: Bass Communion – Pacific Codex

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The first thing I will say about Bass Communion is that this is somewhat difficult music. It is definitely not going to be everyone's particular cup o' joe — including fans of its creator's other, better-known band, the great British prog-rock outfit Porcupine Tree.

But that is probably, exactly how Steven Wilson intended it.

Even for those familiar with Wilson's work with Porcupine Tree, or his numerous other "side-projects" like the poppier-sounding Blackfield, Bass Communion is not going to be the easiest pill to swallow. In fact, the more psychedelically, or otherwise adventurously inclined among you might even want to consider a recreational pill of choice before diving in here.

That's not an endorsement for drug-enhanced listening by the way. But rather, the best way I can muster to communicate the fact that this particular Steven Wilson project may just require some attitude adjustment to be best appreciated.

Bass Communion is Steven Wilson's electronic, ambient music project, and has been described by the artist himself as something of a labor of love for him. While the music on this, and other Bass Communion releases such as Loss and Ghosts On Magnetic Tape can't really be compared to anything else out there, the best way to describe the music here would be words like hypnotic, dark, melancholic, and perhaps even disturbing on some sort of subliminal level.

When approached the proper way — there we go with that "attitude adjustment" again — it can also be a starkly beautiful experience.

Like other Bass Communion releases, Pacific Codex mainly consists of these gorgeous, haunting soundscapes that are really more about texture, than any sort of structured musical form. The closest point of musical reference would be the ambient electronica of early Tangerine Dream — though it lacks the rhythm of that particular German brand of layered sound — or a decidedly darker take on the more atmospheric seventies work of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp on albums like Music For Airports.

Pacific Codex is a beautifully packaged double set that includes both a standard CD and a 5.1 DVD-A disc, which is particularly appropriate considering that the bass tones here are some of the deepest sounding I have ever heard. The 5.1 version comes highly recommended for anyone reading this who has the high-end sort of system to handle it.

If you do decide to check this out on standard equipment, you might wanna consider turning the low end down a bit. As for playing it in your car? Well, even if your speakers don't survive the experience, at least you'll gain the instant respect of every hip-hop head on the block.

Pacific Codex also includes a beautiful 36-page book of photographs (mostly scenes of oceans and waves), and comes in a very limited, numbered run of 950 copies that are housed in a heavy gauge box by Carl Glover/Aleph. Limited copies can be ordered at Headphone Dust.

Again, this is not music for everybody — including fans of Porcupine Tree. But for those who are willing, Bass Communion provides a dark, but beautiful ride to the edge of the abyss.

Just make sure your system, and your head can handle it.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I think that if people want to appreciate this style of art/music they should start out with Mike Patton’s solo work & even his work with Fantomas (Delìrium Còrdia is a brilliant example). Though, I’m certain there may be other artists that have blazed this trail earlier, I am probably fairly biased because it was Mr. Patton’s work that opened my brain up to this very expansive genre.

    Still, I definitely this that Mr. Wilson’s material is always worth checking out & I am happy to see that he isn’t running out of ideas & getting stale. “Prog-Rock” can get very bland without experimentation…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thats what makes Mr. Wilson stand out amongst his fellow prog-rockers in my opinion Mr. Gupster. The fact that he is constantly experimenting with different sounds and that no two “projects” of his sound alike. Blackfield is as different from P. Tree as Bass Communion is from No-Man. Wilson seems to draw inspiration from challenging both his audience, his musicians, and finally himself.

    Thanx for the comment.

    -Glen

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Yes, Glen, I was agreeing with you but let’s not get carried away. I do love Mr. Wilson’s work but I do believe Mike Patton was covering this ground way before w/releases like Mr.Bungle’s Disco Vilante & Fantomas’ Director’s Cut is totally pioneering & touches upon texture,complexity & a passion that I haven’t heard in a long time. Kevin Moore has covered quite a bit of ground w/ O.S.I. & Chroma Key. VAST did some cool shite w/ his first release and I love the song Turqoise.
    A Chinese Fire Drill Circles is pretty damn good as well… Although I don’t agree with your statement, again, I wouldn’t take anything away from Steve Wilson because he is very talented and has worked with numerous musicians that I love. Plus, he egineerewd the almighty Opeth’s Blackwater Park which is by far the best f*cking Prog/Death Metal album to grace this planet!