Bass Music Sessions – there’s something about that title and the venture it’s based around, bassmusicblog (run by I.D., Baobinga, and others), that implies universality, a sort of utopia of disparate genres (breaks, dubstep, funky) united by a penchant for big, wonderful bass.It’s not surprising then that the duo’s debut LP – released for free through bassmusicblog and bandcamp – is a restless, hard-to-pin-down venture through all sorts of music. What is surprising is the sheer breadth of ground covered here, and more importantly, the deft virtuosity with which everything is handled. I.D. & Baobinga had a pretty good run-up to the album in their newer two solid singles, but nothing really signaled the sort of effortless expertise shown here.With their LP the duo have managed to master pretty much every genre under the UK bass umbrella.
Their sound is almost utilitarian, leaning towards the darker side of the bass music spectrum. Its power and emphasis lies in the percussion – despite the title, you won’t find much wobbly LFO. Frankly, that’s a good thing, and what’s really on display here is one of the most seamless mixes yet of all the related styles, the freneticism of breaks mixed with the twitch of funky house, imbued with dubstep’s sense of darkness and anxiety. Even with the relatively refined, pared-down sound palette the duo use, there’s a deceptive amount of detail and colour. “Hither & Thither”and “Man Down” recall David Kennedy’s percussive experiments of last year as Ramadanman and Pearson Sound, the former taking that style and immersing it in thick, goopy bass until it starts to distort, rattle and malfunction, and the former assuming Kennedy’s skeletal structure and loading it up with about ten times more percussion than it should logically be able to support.
It feels wrong to call anything here a highlight, because the tracks are all so different; every track feels singular but the LP doesn’t feel like a loose collection of singles. It feels equally wrong to not call special attention to “Red Dust” as the one moment of daylight forcing its way in through the black light-shrouded, painted-window party of the rest of the LP. It’s the bizarro “Black Sun,” Kode9’s bile-soaked UK funky anti-anthem from last year – that same brutal, relentless percussion, but this time blanketed by warm, flowing synth pads, weaving in and out through the tiny cracks between beats until they finally break their way through with a gorgeous melody, the sun blaring full-bore at everything below. On the contrary, other tracks on the album feel like black holes sucking in the air around them and collapsing from the centre: the vacuum rave of opener “Backfoot,” the hip-hop tinged lilt of “Still Tippin’” (particularly the instrumental version “Hush Riddim”), or the rigid, stone-faced funky of “Inland.”
There are some definite experiments on Bass Music Sessions amidst all the steely-eyed professionalism, most notably two flirtations with hip-hop, full-on verses and everything. “White Girl” flips an E-40 track onto a menacing beat with distorted drums and huge piano hits; it’s straight up hip-hop but it’s maximal, widescreen hip-hop on a scale rarely seen. On the other hand, “Still Tippin” is more like hip-hop tacked onto a slinky dubstep beat, and isn’t as successful at incorporating the vocal; thankfully, ID & Baobinga have thoughtfully provided two instrumentals for these tracks at the end of the album, and they’re perhaps even more valuable when there’s no vocals to distract from the masterful production. Album closer “The King” even brings in the drum ‘n’ bass – but this is not the overcooked, extreme-for-extremity’s-sake style that arguably halted the momentum of that particular scene. It’s a cut in the vein of the classics, the tempo slow enough with just enough space between sounds for it to feel properly thrilling while still comprehensible, instead of drum machines going off so fast that they just sound like one continuous sound.
Bass Music Sessions feels like the opening salvo for what’s sure to be a great year of LPs in bass music.The LP is a tricky format with numerous pitfalls – they’re often way too long, the songs sound too similar to be presented back-to-back 10 or more times, or they make a collection of undesirables or failed experiments and save the good stuff for singles, and so forth. I.D. & Baobinga have somehow managed to avoid all of these mistakes and crafted a lean and varied LP full of independently strong tracks that cohere quite well. It’s not often that you could hear about an LP with drum ‘n’ bass, breaks, house, dubstep and the like, and expect greatness – usually that leads to watered-down genre exercises and pathetic imitations of the real thing. But with Bass Music Sessions, they’ve made a fresh statement that’s not only enough to rejuvenate interest in each individual scene but also signals a mass convergence of styles, due as much to opening minds as to the Internet. Hell, they’re even releasing it for free over the internet – how much more current can an album get? Essential listening to fans of electronic music of all kinds.
Bass Music Sessions is available for free through label.bassmusicblog.com and all (optional) proceeds are donated to Dove House Hospice in Hull, UK.