You have to give Bassrespänse credit for boldness and imagination. It's not every day that a bass quartet steps out and covers the ground from down-home blues to swinging jazz and extended drones and scrapes. As expected, Bassrespänse delivers a sonority rich in the lower frequencies. The four bassists in this group strive for a balance of thunder and lightning: by also attacking the upper register, they cover a much wider range than one might imagine. Though the quartet has the potential to deliver a virtual tsunami of sound, its members tend to hold back, allowing individual voices to be heard against counterpoint or call-and-response accompaniment. As a series of fragmenting duos and trios, the quartet enables a constantly changing stream of ideas. On "Louis Devareaux," vocalist Marjanie Dele joins in with a rather redundant rah-rah spirit; and on "Z.C.P.", saxophonists Benjamin Tomassetti and Daniel Powell offer some deliberate and somber accents.
Two serious problems disable Bassrespänse. First, the quartet has serious problems playing in tune. One can speak all one wants about microtonal experimentation, but it's clear that plenty of notes on this disc (especially in the treble) are entirely relative. When players come together to assert unison, they frequently fail to achieve the effect. And when they pursue harmonic statements, the listener often has to round notes up or down to make the ideas work. (Certain players on the left channel, to remain unnamed, cause special problems in this regard.) The second shortfall of Bassrespänse is the entirely elastic rhythm of the group. No one's going to judge an avant bass quartet with a metronome, but time disintegrates into shreds here. With all the exciting raw possibilities for polyrhythm, swing, and pulse, one might expect the four bassists in Bassrespänse to occasionally engage in some creative rhythmic interplay. Unfortunately this doesn't happen.
Listeners with a better-developed taste for music played out of tune (and a higher tolerance for wandering rhythms) may find this disc a treat. It certainly has a lot to offer in terms of experimental textures, extended techniques, and unusual stylistic juxtapositions.
Track Listing: Lisofall; Waltz for Four Basses; Ready Set Go; Louis Devareaux; 99 Shorescapes; Llano Quemado; Baltimore Weather; Z.C.P.
Personnel: Bassrespänse: Vattel Cherry, Alan Lewine, Jane Wang, and David Kaczorowski: bass; Marjanie Dele: vocals;
Benjamin Tomassetti: alto saxophone; Daniel Powell: tenor saxophone.