|Spoombung - New Music for Bass Guitar (1998)|
|Background to Spoombung|
|Notes on the tracks|
Scent of Eucris (Hopper):
( Hopper / Brett ):
Former Stump man Kev Hoppers album is subtitled New music for electric bass. Using his homemade Spoombung device - a kind of prepared bass involving clips and a hammering technique - his record is certainly unique. Its key element is a repetitive, percussive bass which resonates and chimes with varying tonalities. Distinctive it might be, but it doesnt vary much. However Hopper also works trumpet, flugelhorn and musical saw into the textural weave. Fascinating.
Hoppers new CD is a cause for celebration given the unremarkable
record of the electric bass ( unlike the acoustic double bass ) in experimental
music. In fact Hugh Hoppers 1984 (1972) was the last time I heard
such interesting use of the bass guitar, and like Hugh, Kev comes from
a rock background ( Stump were reviewed in Rubberneck 3).
bass guitar has never had much of an avant garde following, really;
even Laswell takes heavy cues from funkateers like Bootsy and Stanley
Clarke, and if you want to be the closest thing there is to hot property
on the avant garde scene then you pay homage to your jazz roots by biting
the bullet and playing the double bass. Of course, there are interesting
experimental bass guitarists out there, but they don't tend to be high-profile;
they tend to be team players whose identity is, to an extent, subsumed
by a band. They don't, in other words, tend to record solo albums like
this one. Regardless of how the lineup looks on paper, this is Hopper's
show. Ian Smith appears on two tracks, the others on one each, giving
the bassman plenty of space to himself. Hopper mixes "live"
with sampled playing, bass sounds with synths and non-bass samples,
which gives this album the pleasant quality of being nigh-on impossible
to analyse. His soundscapes seem densely layered, with the bass weaving
in and out, appearing then submerging, flitting by disguised as an electronic
blip, or appearing in a sample-haze mirage. It sounds as much like a
contemporary ambient album as a solo bass workout, and there's no problem
to talk about the spoombung now. This is a word -- a deliciously onomatopoeic
word at that -- invented by Hopper to describe what is essentially a
practice of preparation familiar to players of all stringed instruments,
attaching crocodile clips and safety pins to the strings, or more brutally
shoving lengths of wood or metal between or beneath them and so on.
What Hopper brings into the equation, however, is a technical mastery
of specifically bass-guitar-oriented techniques of slapping and popping
the strings, using both hands percussively to create wonderfully bouncy
cross-rhythms. The fact that Hopper's playing is so rooted in conventional
bass technique, yet sounds so different, makes this more than just another
prepared-strings exercise. And then watch out for the "assisted
spoombungs", in which either Flint or Carter alter the preparations
while Hopper plays, at some times resulting in gently shifting timbres,
and at others, as on the self-explanatory "Croclipslipped",
causing unpredictable mayhem.
album is as curious as the name suggests. Let your ears do a double-take
- more than just another bass album, Spoombung is a collection of rhythms
and sounds produced by a bass guitar with the aid of various paraphernalia
and the occasional guest artiste. Hopper is well known on the London
experimental scene for his sounds and improvisation, and this collection
of compositions is very different and often inspirational.