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Neige Grave [3:22]
Wie gut wärs [4:12]
Kurz-long [6:55]
Filmrequiem [16:37]
Marcel KHALIFE, arr. Peter HERBERT
Tarquassim 3 [4:34]
Charles MINGUS (1922-1979) arr. Michael RADANOVICS
Meditations [10:58]
Funky Freedom [2:30]
Cujoo [4:45]
Und i tua nur vorn Leit'n [1:43]
Traditional, arr. Wolfgang PUSCHNIG
It's (scho) quiet around the lake [4:00]
BASSINSTINCT (Gerhard Muthspiel, Herbert Mayr, Georg Breinschmid, Ernst Weissensteiner, Peter Herbert and Tommaso Huber (double basses))
Rec. Symphonia Studio, Vienna in December 2004 and February 2005, DDD



First, the frustrating thing about this self-titled album: I am as much in the dark as the double bass player on the front cover.  The costs of providing detailed liner notes are an obvious concern for the producers of an independent album like this one, but some information would be nice.  As it is, the notes tell me nothing about the performers (other than their names) or about the music (other than the title and the composer/arranger of each piece).  In fact, neither the booklet, nor the back cover, nor the CD confirms my suspicion that this disc is indeed a DDD production.  We are told, however, that BASSINSTINCT do not use pick-ups or amplifiers, an assertion which is both laudable and audible.

Now the exciting thing about this disc: it is excellent.  What we have here is a collection of original compositions and arrangements, most of which were written by members of BASSINSTINCT.  The music is fascinating and expertly played.  The first two tracks on the album are my favourites: Neige Grave  is driven by hypnotic African rhythms drummed out on the bodies of double basses, while a jazzy syncopated melodic line is plucked above an insistent bass.  The second piece turns the ensemble of double basses into Middle Eastern strings, faithfully recreating a distinctly Arabic tonal structure with parallel dissonances bowed in repeated and refracted phrases over bass-body percussion.

The rest of the program charts a course between cool jazz (Meditations), post-Glass and post-Penderecki contemporary music (Filmrequiem), Herrmann-esque syncopations (Kurz-long) and tuneful, song-like numbers (Funky Freedom and Cujoo).  On the whole, I think Herbert's compositions and arrangements are the most effective.  They make the best use of the full range of techniques available to players of long strings, from pizzicato to portamento and beyond.  Not that the other tracks are not similarly entertaining, but other than Meditations, they do not seem to have the same drive.

In short, this is a great album, and not just for double bass fans.  Those who like the eclectic blend of contemporary and world-music popularised by ensembles like the Kronos Quartet will find much to enjoy here.  Worth seeking out.

Tim Perry



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