Benevolent hertz heavy shock and awe
Bass Clef - May the Bridges I Burn Light The Way

Bass Clef delivers benevolent hertz heavy shock and awe. But not through hyperbole. And not because he spent ages fiddling with whimsical sub frequency nuance. But because he is one of the best live dance performers weaving a magical journey in bass.

Standing before a crowd with a trestle table exploding in weird percussion instruments he develops his tunes in real time, looping up trombone, whistles, cowbells, shakers, kids toys and, wait for it, a bloody Theremin.

He’s a badass one-man band of bass. He shakes songs out of his arms and lungs that come in somewhere between dubstep and wonky carnival with his club sets sneaking in splashes of old school UK garage and blasts of full frontal techno.

And so to his new album: ‘May the Bridges I Burn Light The Way’ his second long player, faithfully retained on Blank Tapes. And its fleshier and more populated than his debut ‘A Smile Is A Curve That Straightens Most Things’ (He loves a long title eh?). His drums are way more frenetic and his basslines spiked with acid riffs that suggest a partied path. But what’s noticeable is how much it resembles his captivating stage show.

Opening track ‘Gasoline My Head and Light It: I’m Already on Fire’ lays down his manifesto in reverb, delay and the dub. It’s with an urgent half step that sets the pace of nearly the whole album and it’s only at the three-minute mark before he introduces his trademark trombone.
Many of Bass Clef’s more brass drenched numbers are haunted skanking journeys that cast an ephemeral vision of where Jerry Dammers could have taken The Specials had they not combusted through fractious personalities. It’s groaning improvised notes provide a deep and longing sound, further earning its place in Bass Clef’s arsenal by the fact that certain trombone notes, sent flying around his effects pedals, hit a level of analogue hertz that younger more laptop based producers can only dream of. Skull quaking vibrations.

Tracks like ‘You Do My Head In’, ‘Kiss Me’ and ‘Hackney Lionheart’ are instrumental bangers with boisterous jump-up basslines far removed from his more contemplative debut album. These tracks are frantic, obsessive, visionary and reverberate with the inner city sonics unique to London. They are also perhaps not to everyone’s tastes being so bold.

But Ralph Cumbers is a balanced man. And his second album is a balanced affair as he keeps one eye on the album’s architecture by dipping the final third into a much more textured soundscape. Live, he is reliant on pre-programmed backing sections and lots of delayed percussion generated by hand. Yet ‘Fix This Broken Love’ and ‘Halliwick’ sees phasing, drone based distortions take the place of his manipulated percussion. Here he brings the depth through the type of competing layers that Steve Reich so long ago pioneered. This hints at an intriguing future in the studio where deeper and richer fruits may grow.

‘May The Bridges Burn…’ if anything will be colonising new fans rather than casting them off. Having toured for so long, and built his talents through showmanship, his musical direction is now sharp and distinct. He’s felt his way through the Hackney darkness without the need for razing the ground just passed and seems he requires no more illumination on the process of making us unwind our behinds. Bass Clef has forged a remarkable musical project now further immortalised on a decent sophomore album.


Words by Matthew Bennett


Listen to, and download, an exclusive Dj mix by Bass Clef for ClashMusic HERE and read a new interview with the man HERE.

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