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.