Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bass Bits #11 - Bassline

And so we reach the 21st Century.

And my bass memory goes a bit blank.

Which is odd because if anything Bass was more of a fetish than ever, maybe, in the wider culture.

You got the dubstep bods banging on - boring on, to be honest - about Bass Weight.

Then a bit later you had the horrid coinage "UK Bass", or even just Bass Music.

And yet so very little springs to mind as examples of stellar bass from this entire period. 

Well, this was nice work: 

Bee-ootiful sound-design...

And this dude had a way with the lower frequencies... 

The Digital Mystikz / DMZ end of things?

I like the fact that Loefah would call a tune something like this....

But the very concept of this...  

... makes me feel like I'm stuck at school. 

I double-checked a few other dubsteppy things that I remembered really liking at the time (e.g. Benga & Coki "Night") but really the bass in it, it's not all that. 

Then there was the brostep moment, the wobble-beyond-parody phase.. when the B-line gradually left behind the sub-lo zone altogether for a mid-frequency screech ...  Which could be quite entertaining, in a scato-maniacal, emetic-frenetic sort of way 

This track is as good an example of the genre's undoubted if limited appeal as any - and the title actually is a fine description of what the splatterbass sounds like. Wait for the "Sick Drop" at 1.06

Genre taking the piss out of itself  #1

Genre taking the piss out of itself #2

When I think of the things that did excite me in the last 15 years of dance, I don't actually think of the bass element particularly

Grime - I think of MCs and beats... sometimes bleeps... rarely bass.  

The exception would be probably be Terror Danjah...

...although even here the bass isn't really bass as such, it's that bombastic fanfare-riff and the overall doomy stompy vibe.

More recently, footwork -  what's stunning to me is the beat work and the chopped up vocals.... I rarely even register if there's anything going on with bass 

The bass is in there, doing its job.... but not comment-worthy in and of itself. 

Much the same could be said about this other recent headfuck genre

Bass is there, roiling... contributing to the dark mood.... but pales next to what's going with the other elements in the lurching, counter-intuitive groove


Now of course it could be that after such bass-sensitization in the 90s with jungle and UKG,  by the 2000s those pleasure centres were burned out in my brain...  

(Mind you, I'm actually having a hard time thinking of awesome bass bits in any genre during the 21st Century to date.... Rock for instance - despite there being a postpunk revival, it's slim pickings....  A few moments from Radiohead's Colin Greenwood, mostly on Kid A...  The dude in Vampire Weekend - Chris Baio... )

But then I remembered....

There was at least one truly bass-tastic dance music genre in the 2000s.

And appropriately enough, it was called Bassline.  

The bastard Northern child of speed garage... picking up on things from the previous post like Gant's "Soundbwoy Burial" (regarded as a Niche anthem in the North East) and productions by DJ Narrows...   but pushing that warp science into a veritable Bass Baroque: intricately sculpted, slippery 'n' sinuous convolutions... frilly 'n' frantic...  bass-snakes writhing and intertwining....   at times almost sounding at odds with the beat, like a counter-clockwise groove within the groove. 

The sound had been bubbling along for much of the 2000s in that broad band of England from South Yorkshire across to Liverpool -  its heartland being towns like Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby, Leicester ... A chap called Ambrose sent me a few burned CDs of DJ mixes in the mid-decade but can't say I was super impressed by Bassline House: mostly it just seemed like speed garage, frozen as a style, a regional curio (there was a subgenre called Organ House I seem to recall - that tickled me). 

But the next time I checked it out - the later months of 2007 - Bassline seemed to have come along leaps and bounds. And a few months later it actually leaped into the UK charts, with a couple of hits that reached as high as #2. 

These are some of my faves from that winter of Bassline.  

TS7, “Smile” -  obscenely quivering, lubricious'n' delicious

DJ Q feat MC Bonez - "You Wot" - it's grime, oop North

TRC featuring Zoe, “Why Can’t I Find Love”: a female Monsta Boy, distraught with loneliness

TS7 & T Dot, “Ding Dong” - it's grime oop North (distaff version)

J Holiday Vs T2, “Bed” - a wetly-iridescent rapturous quality redolent of Daft Punk 

Mr V feat Willis Rose, “What's Your Name”: barmy bubbly-squirmer of bass-goo like foaming sex secretions

JTJ - "Stand Up" - it's grime oop North part 3

T2 - "Hey (Virgo Remix)" - madly rotating treadmill of bassage 

Another Mr V churner of a chune - "Jack in A Box" - LUDIC-crous

DJ Denver, “This Is Sick” -  fractal roil of faecal flatulo-bass

N-Dubz, “Better Not Waist My Time (Wide Boys RMX): rococo-levels of frilly bass-curvature 

I was so into Bassline that - not being tech savvy enough to work out how to record a stream - I resorted to putting my Walkman right up close to my computer speakers to tape 1xtra shows by Cameo and DJ Q.  At that point there wasn't much to be foraged otherwise on the Internet - the odd low quality YouTube clip, nothing much in the way of mixes. So this was my way  of grabbing the tunes and somewhere I have a handful of surprisingly listenable cassettes that are only occasionally interrupted by background sounds, like toilets being flushed, baby minders returning with Tazzy, and so forth.  I think also bought a few CDs (Bassline had this curious bulk-buy economy - mix-CDs sold by the half-dozen, or even job lots of ten - dubious sound quality, tacky packaging, supremely functional music, for people to play in their cars mostly I presume.)  I did get hold of a few bits on vinyl, but the pressing quality tended to be pitiful - and the cost of buying them as imports was offputting. 

And then the sound seemed to.... get stuck again. It didn't leap forward, any further... nor did it repeat its chart-breakthrough successes. 

At a certain point it mutated into a slower version of itself - jackin bass - which was quite diverting for a moment, but again didn't seem to go anywhere ultimately.