Pip Pyle's Bash: Belle Illusion (2004)
And why not? To flesh out his new group Pyle enlisted bassist Fred T. Baker, another alumni of In Cahoots; Frenchman Patrice Meyer, who has contributed some fine fusion guitar work to the various groups of ex-Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper; and keyboardist Alex Maguire, last heard gracing some of saxophonist Elton Dean’s more recent work. It seemed as though all the ingredients were there.
Unfortunately gathering a group of fine musicians is not enough. Bash’s début effort, Belle Illusion , suffers from weak writing and a general lack of focus; as strong as the players are, there is nothing for them to sink their musical teeth into. The result is an album of riff-based pieces over which everyone gets ample solo time; all style and no substance.
And it’s a damn shame. As good as each musician is things just never seem to gel. It might be presumptuous to say that they are merely going through the motions; clearly, based on the fact that the group is more than a one-off affair, they feel they have something worth continuing; but the fact of the matter is that Pyle’s writing is simply not good enough. Odd meters abound, skewed harmonies dance every which way, and everyone seems intent on lighting a fire; but they seem to be out of lighter fluid. There is little in the way of memorable melody—form seems to be nothing more than a vehicle to allow the players to get to the solos. But without interesting foundations, the tunes merely meander along with little sense of drama; or humour; or anything resembling emotion.
Pyle cannot be held completely to blame. Each of the other members contribute a composition to the nine-song set; none of them seem to able to inspire anything other than casual interest. Even Maguire’s “John’s Fragment,” with its irregular-metered riff and ascending pattern that grooved along so nicely on Elton Dean’s album, Moorsong , plods along; Pyle and Meyer try to heat things up with some flashy chops; but alas too little, too late. Belle Illusion is nothing if not proof positive that collecting together a crew of individually talented players does not a group make.
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Track Listing: For Adiba; Vas Y Dotty; Sparky; Beautiful Baguette; Biffo's Belle Illusion; Spoutnik; Cauliflower Ears; Carousel; John's Fragment
Personnel: Pip Pyle (drums), Alex Maguire (keyboards, fender rhodes, Hammond), Patrice Meyer (guitar), Fred T. Baker (bass), with Elton Dean (alto sax on
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock