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Bass Communion - Ghosts on Magnetic Tape

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Artist: Bass Communion

Album: Ghosts on Magnetic Tape

Label: Headphone Dust

Review date: Jun. 16, 2004

Ghosts on Magnetic Tape is the audio equivalent of an Edgar Allen Poe compendium, ranging from the darkly beautiful to stark bleakness. The compositions soundtrack a narrative comprised of layered effects and instrumental samples that float atop tidal waves of bass, ebbing and flowing between troubled waters and molten lava.

Bass Communion is a project by the prolific Steven Wilson, member of alt-indie rock band Porcupine Tree and the ambient-atmospheric project, No Man. Ghosts on Magnetic Tape is inspired by scientist Konstantin Raudive’s famous attempts to communicate with the dead and subsequently capture his efforts on magnetic tape.

Each of the five pieces showcases a particular sound that stands out against the enshrouding atmospheric wash. The first features solitary piano notes against dense bass reverberations, followed by a pre-recorded tin-like orchestral score likely culled from an old 78. The effect is eerie, conjuring specters of yesteryear, aptly setting the tone for what follows, when a mournful, opera singer laments amidst haunting effects. These first two pieces, while spooky, retain a certain, personable charm.

The subsequent pieces are unsettling, bleak, more apt for the likes of Lovecraft. The bass engulfs and consumes with voracious appetite, easily distorting lesser speakers. Through these powerful rumblings emerge the shrieks of occult creatures and parched creaking bone. The accompanying tones resemble a desolate dirge of woodwinds and brass.

A striking characteristic of Ghosts on Magnetic Tape is the crackle and hiss of analogue limitation, exemplified in the recurrent use of music from 78's. Rather than dirty the sound, the cracklings add a warm and charming dimension, further emphasized by the seamlessness of the work. Ghosts... is ideally suited for a silent listening environment, because this piece can be delicate as it is powerful.

By I Khider

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