The Last Fret
Canadian bassist Wendy Atkinson returns with her third album of solo bass explorations – well, it’s not all “solo”, there’s guitar on three tracks from fellow Vancouver-based art-rock agitator and experimentalist, David Lester (he of Mecca Normal). There’s also some field recordings, toy piano and a few other elements, the main textures come from the bass though.
And this is not about walking bass lines or merely the bottom-end, there are spoken-word pieces (Hebron Birds) and the bass is used with a bow, or prepared; it’s used to create many moods and textures.
There are short, soundtrack-like cues, such as Never Alone, a flange-effect brings the bass in sounding like a particularly demented cello, as the sounds of footsteps and doors being slammed place in somewhere near some perceived action and certainly closer to tension. And then 16 Hours of Daylight has a nursery rhyme rhythm to it before the mantra-like drones of In The Off Season.
Something Overheard is another very filmic piece of music. Where Play Along has two different bass parts working against one another, the more tradition ‘line’ sits solid while a bowed bass interacts as if overdriven guitar one minute, or piercing synth line the next.
The dark crunch of Off The Edge takes what already has an overall nocturnal feel deeper into the darker spaces, where music and sound-design rub up against one another and the result is a piece with aspects of both but a whole new sound and focus all its own.
The poetry pieces (What Is A Dollar) are a welcome change of tone and feel – since the main sound across the album is the bass, albeit several different types and techniques.
Penultimate track Falling has me thinking of some of the late great Rob Wasserman’s ideas across his trio of bass-heavy albums.