Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bass Bits - Star Guest Post - Moon Wiring Club

In the last decade, some of my favorite bassige has come from the artist known as Moon Wiring Club, who has a unique sound and way with a B-line  - involving delay effects - that adds to the creepy-crepuscular-clammy feel of his tunes.

I wanted to play "Roger's Ghost" from An Audience With Art Deco Eyes but it's not on YouTube so you'll just have to dig it out of your own collection. This other fave tune from the LP is less bass-dominated but typically dank and penetrative.

This one, off the recent Why Does My House Make Creaking Noises? vinyl-only LP, contains some writhy bass-slime.

I could go on for quite some time picking bass-faves from his dozen albums but I thought I would ask the man himself  - Ian Hodgon - about his approach. Below he points to some notable MWC bass bits, and then picks some of his own favorite bass bits by other people.

"I don't really think about bass separately that much, but it's often the most FUN part. MWC tracks generally start off with the rhythm (making a beat) or melody, then bass is added to compliment. I don't think I've ever started off with a bass part

"The bass delay came out from one of my original intentions (or 'messing about') in making music which was just to apply echo and delay effects to voice samples. The memory restrictions placed on you by the PlayStation 2 mean that it only has the ability to use one effect at a time, and over the years playing around I found that a delay on the bass was the most effective / pleasing use of this limitation, as within the effect you can tweak things quite a bit. It's all very very rough compared to something like Logic, but finding out how moving the delay parameters +1 one way or -1 the other to pretty much 'make' a track was how the WORLD FAMOUS MWC BASS SOUND came about

"Also lots of the bass notes are 'one-hit' samples from old charity-shop records, and adding to this pretty lo-fi set-up you often get external 'unconscious' background sounds (reverb fade from a melody, crackle from the vinyl etc) which end up adding things to the overall mix especially when the delay effects are used. I think as well that whatever the PS2 uses to process things adds to the sound. It's clonky, squonky, lo-fi and knacked, and, on occasion, laughable when compared to what current music production bass can sound like, but does have a certain flavour all of its own and I like that. I think soggy and knackered is a MWC default. :)

"Quite often a MWC track will have the framework all in place (beats, melody) and the delay is the bass let loose. I see it this way ~ If the kick and snare are a row of two pillars in a large marble museum space, then the bass is like a rubber ball thrown against a wall and bouncing between them until it fades out of sight."

interrupting here just to say: round of applause for Ian for that metaphor!

Okay, back to Ian's lowdown:

"Sometimes though the bass can be creeping around the track, on tip-toes hiding against the pillars and causing mischief. AFFFH track 'The Regency Room' is a good example of that

"The image I always get when composing is that the components of a track are like an intertwining cats cradle, everything twisting around, and the bass is always light blue wool."

Another round of applause...

"Weirdest warpedest bass? I'd pick "Woodsmoke & Treacle" . As I was making the track thinking I need something that a) sounds like treacle and b) glues everything together like treacle, which I think it does. I wouldn't say it was that weird, but it does bounce along nicely which isn't a quality to under-appreciate and that synthbass is just a lovely lovely sound especially when it 'overloops' on itself. The Woodsmoke is the drifty organ in case you were wondering. "

"My personal fav MWC bass bit is on "Coquettish & Insane" - not that fancy as an actual note, but the delay loops really quickly while lasting a long time, and took ages to do, but turned out really nicely. Very much a 'marble museum' rubber ball track. :)"

And now for Ian's own "bass favs" + commentary - tasty selection

Ennio Morricone ~ Come Maddalena 
(bass by 'Libero Tosoni' ~ assume he's a session chap) 
Just sits on the beat and is perfect. Disco Ennio all day please 

Herbie Hancock ~ Hidden Shadows 
(bass MCHEZAJI (Buster Williams) bass clarinet MWILE (Bennie Maupin)
 Sextant is my fav jazz LP, don't think you could ever get bored with this track. Find myself humming the bass all the time

Brian Bennett ~ Solstice 
(bass Alan Jones from The Shadows)
 Library music ultra classic, so much to enjoy it's like going on holiday

Harold Faltermeyer ~ Fletch theme ~
This has to be one of the greatest tracks ever made. Apparently it was a happy accident as the studio engineer started the backing track slightly too soon when recording causing it all to be slightly off beat

Clannad ~ Robin (the Hooded Man)
(bass Ciarán Brennan) 
I love the twin bass on this (double bass and Prophet 5) and that the track has no drums until half way through. It's all very expressive and the bass melody at 0:39 is deeply special. Loads going on but not bloated. TUNE