Bass Communion v Muslimgauze

In 1996 Steven Wilson, the mind behind Bass Communion, wrote to Bryn Jones to express his admiration of Muslimgauze. Subsequently they met and Steven gave Bryn some of his own music, although he suspected that it wouldn't appeal to him. It didn't, but as with all the music that Bryn was exposed to, his natural instinct to rework it into something that proved irresistible. And so it came to pass that only four days after their meeting Steven received a parcel containing two and a half hours of reconstructions and obliterations of his ordinal music. The new pieces were distorted, grainy, loop-driven tracks, but Steven felt they were too close to Bryn's own music to simply release as a remix album. Instead he decided to use them as the basis for new pieces, and re-edited and over-dubbed the tapes, finally returning them to Bryn for approval. So began a period of collaboration by post. Each time Bryn would provide rhythms and each time Steven molded the raw material only to have Bryn obliterate it again!! Finally in early 1997 the battle was over and an album was complete, but was somehow swept away under the deluge of Bryn's own release schedule and never issued. Now in the aftermath of Bryn's death these recordings are finally being issued by Soleilmoon in a limited edition of 600 copies at a special low price. For Muslimgauze fans these recordings are significant in that they represent one of the only instances of a true two-way collaboration between Bryn and another musician, as opposed to being simply a remix project. For Bass Communion fans the recordings are an opportunity to hear Steven's ambient textures, sonic fluctuations and low-end bass fused with the hard edged ethnic rhythms that were Bryn's trademark

Press release from Soleilmoon.

The following appeared on Mark Weddle's CD & Live Show Reviews page.

Bass Communion v Muslimgauze is a limited edition (600) release which was initially going to be distributed via CDr to interested members of the Muslimgauze ("Islamaphonia") mailing list.  So many people were interested that within 24 hours of the offer Soleilmoon stepped in and (thankfully) decided to make this an official, low price (< $10) release.  The music itself began in 1996 when Steven Wilson gave Bryn Jones some of his music.  Steven and Bryn then began a collaboration by exchanging tapes vial mail.  Both of them would overdub and re-edit the tracks and by early 1997 the album was finished but never released.  The result is one of the only instances of a true two-way collaboration between Jones and another musician rather than just a re-mix project.  The music reflects the collaborative nature well as each of the five tracks seamlessly blend Bass Communion's ambient textures with the rhythm and percussion loops of Muslimgauze.  BC's drifting, swirling sounds and electronic processing comes through loud and clear, and is a welcome accompaniment to the typical Muslimgauze sound.  It really makes for something new in the Muslimgauze back catalog.  I really like how each track is edited to flow through different ambient, processed and beat driven sections ranging from quiet and relaxing to distorted and abrasive.  I'm extremely impressed ... it's a shame there weren't more two-way collaborations like this one in the Muslimgauze catalog.  Bass Communion v Muslimgauze is not only my favorite collaboration/re-mix Muslimgauze release to date, it has also quickly become one of my favorite Muslimgauze releases in general.  And there's just something about the bright orange disc and aquamarine fish artwork ...

review by Mark Weddle
CD & Live Show Reviews

The following appeared in the &etc newsletter.

In 1996 Steve Wilson (Bass Communion) sent Bryn Jones (Muslimgauze) some tapes, Jones messed them up and sent them back, Wilson played with them and returned them and on it went - a musical collaboration of two very different musicians. Muslimgauze is probably more well known - Middle Eastern influenced, percussive, distorted, treated, sampled ethno-music - and Bass Communion ought to be - long, evolving ambient textures [see &etc v1.2]. Very different sounds and methods which come crashing together on this disc. Lost from view after 1997, Wilson was going to make it available as a CDr, but Soleilmoon stepped in and released it. And a wonderful, twisted piece of work it is.

Unlike other albums, this is not based on existing material - you can't play spot the original. But what you can do is see how the styles of each led to a new direction - who won particular battles of the sounds! Bryn brought to the exercise his interest in rhythms, Arabic samples and distortion, while Steve's work in dense, evolving soundscapes provided a narrative or structure that Muslimgauze can often overlook.

The tracks are named simply by sequence, and 'one' opens with a looping sub-aquatic ambient (redolent of the fish cover image) long pulses, sound-waves, hollow scrapes and sonar-beeps, under which a beat slowly develops, sliding into a Muslimgauze drumming pattern looped and foregrounded over backward tones. A rubbery bass and distorted guitar enjoin, and the piece rolls into a rocking, crunchy finale of phased drumming and tortured sounds. 'Two' demonstrates less Muslimgauze percussion, although the electro squelches could be him, and the sirens and backwards sounds have his touch, and who knows what the computer generated voices are saying: but this is a demented vision with a shimmering end.

The longest track, at 13 minutes follows. The opening is strongly rhythmic with little electro blurts, synth lines and drop outs, but shifts into a burbling analog interim before a more restrained phase of quiet scratchy rhythm loops, occasional blurps erupting, with clicks counting rhythm in the background. The more percussive element returns, and powers along with drones and textural layers into a long Muslimgauze overload of sirens, voices and drums. There are two phases to 'four' - the first half is a dark and dense layering of machine pulse, percussion, squarks and a radio communication; half way this flips to a quiet, scratchy and loose loop based on a hand drum.

Finally 'five' opens with a hefty Middle Eastern loop and synths which then segues into a extended slow, spooky phase, with simple percussive elements, electro-noises, pulse loops, pulsating organs, which drift towards and beyond the end of the track. As with all the tracks here, there is a movement and development, that elements are shifted around and modulated and then moved on.

In most Muslimgauze albums there are tracks which make you stop and gaze in surprise at the speakers as something quite different from the rest of the album emerges - some analog bleep dub in the midst of a crunchy album, a simple vocal loop or some very different instrumental base. This album is like many of those moments rolled into one: you hear some Muslimgauze and then get pulled in a new direction. Along with the Mort Aux Vache disk (where other instrumentalists joined in, interpreting and expanding on the basic sounds) this provides a vision of some of the territories that Bryn Jones could have explored in additional collaborations (rather than remixes). And while Bass Communion is not as well known as Muslimgauze (whatever that means these days - I have been accused of exploring ambient obscurities) the inclusion of Muslimgauze rhythms adds a solid layer to the textural work in the self-titled album I have heard. A dramatic and exciting addition to both discography's.

review by Jeremy Keens
This text originally appeared in &etc v1.12.
Reproduced by permission.

The following appeared in Sound Projector.

The title alone excites me with the same frisson I once experienced at the prospect of a Teen Titans v X-Men comic. Wow! What will they get up to having had the obligatory punch-up resulting doubtlessly from a minor misunderstanding? Will Cyclops make moves on the girl with the considerable assets? Will Wolverine duff Jerico up for being a girl's skipping rope with pink handles? The tension! The drama! What form will the conflict take? A battle of wits, a few rounds of gin rummy, or the more unorthodox approach unofficially favoured by cub scouts involving clenched fists, a slice of bread and dirty thoughts?

Muslimgauze produced almost exclusively rhythm percussion-based music. I've only heard one other CD by Bass Communion which is (if I recall correctly) quite devoid of rhythm. Steven Wilson, the grand poobah behind the aforementioned name, instead seems to favour ethereal atmospheric pieces. With these salient facts in mind it seemed not unreasonable to expect an album of Mr. Wilson's organ wizardry accompanied by the talking bongos of Mr. Jones. In other words two CDs of the respective artists being played at the same time.

This in itself could be good, but whatever approach was taken, the end result is much greater than the sum of its parts. Much of this sounds quite different to the individual combatants own stuff, making it less obvious who did what than you'd imagine. The rhythms are there, angle-grinded into a variant on drum and bass which just happens to turn towards Mecca in prayer a few times a day. The tracks herein contain more depth and more layers than on recent Muslimgauze offerings, with patterns of gritty electronics wandering absent-mindedly around the rhythms. Each contributor seems to have had a profound influence on the other, making for a rounded symbiotic whole quite different in feel to solo releases by either. In view of what I've heard of the last Muslimgauze albums, turned out on to CD at a rate that makes the newspaper industry seem like a handmade rural knick-knack operation, this is a very good thing. This proves that with a little imagination there can be a lot more to drums and bass than the black clothes wearing conspiracy theorist bore-core saggy-arsed space fag soundtracks that 90% of the genre's enthusiasts seem to think is indicative of their inherent superiority over people who actually work for a living.

There is apparently another similar collaboration between these two awaiting release, which should be eagerly awaited by anyone with functioning ears. It's a shame that, for obvious reasons, this is all we're likely to get. But even with there being little more where this came from, we at least now know that the bulk of Bryn Jones' last recordings weren't entirely lacking inspiration. It might be worth looking out for this Bass Communion fella in future. A name to watch methinks. A thoroughly classy CD which will thrill the discerning listener. Also there's some fish on the cover. Which is nice.

review by War Arrow
This text originally appeared in Sound Projector Issue 7 April, 2000

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September 19, 2020