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Bass Clef - Reeling Skullways


Punch Drunk


As bass music’s ‘man most likely to be seen brandishing a trombone’, Bass Clef (aka Ralph Cumbers) could hardly be described as your typical producer. Yet on the face of it his latest album for Peverlist’s Punch Drunk label seems quite conventional. Stepping away from the exuberant graftings of soca onto techno (or whatever it’s called these days) that he’s known for in some quarters, acoustic instrumentation and Caribbean energy have made way for arpeggiated synths and acid. So far, so zeitgeist, but does this signal a move away from the edge towards the centre?


The simple answer is yes. Fortunately for the listener though, the means of production - in this case the familiar tools of Chicago house, Detroit Techno and UK bass - simply provide another platform for Cumber’s gift of assembling memorable tunes. The tools certainly are familiar, surely most listeners can spot an acid line at 50 yards these days? In the hands of more opportunistic musicians one might reasonably expect bandwagon chasing and pastiche. Here though this nine track LP is packed with great songwriting at every turn, somehow managing to make dance music sound fresh. No mean feat in a genre rapidly gaining ground on rock’s reliance on formula and familiarity. So, what is Bass Clef’s secret?


The strength here rests on three elements – melody, arrangement and bass. The melodies glide effortlessly past, yet on closer inspection the various components have been beautifully placed to set each other off. Tunes ebb and flow, carefully arranged to best emphsise the melodic reveal. All the while bass permeates everything, whether held back or at the forefront, with a lineage reaching back to the 90s sinewaves of DJ Krust, Roni Size and their colleagues. Add to this a production that gives the listener the impression of being in the room with the performer and you surely have an early candidate for best albums of 2012.


Dan Bean.

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