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Steve Lawson: A Crack Where the Light Gets In / The Way Home

Geno Thackara By

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British bassist Steve Lawson likes to tag his music as "the soundtrack to the day you wish you'd had." That's not to say that it's bright and cheerful all the time (though that's nice when it happens); rather it's colorful and evocative enough to make each respective kind of day a little richer. Whether playing in a small combo (usually a duo) or going it alone with and without effects, he makes sure improvisation and spontaneity lie at the center of everything. One extensive string of mid-2015 solo explorations found him feeling particularly contemplative with two sets of very picturesque results.

Steve Lawson
A Crack Where the Light Gets In

Mention the phrase "solo bassist" and most listeners (outside the instrument's devotees) will just start to get sleepy... which is really most unfortunate. A Crack Where the Light Gets In is indeed a sleepy listen, but the most warmly inviting kind. First it starts out sounding more like low-key electronica than anything else. Lawson fades in with a cloudy synth loop gradually backed by faint buzzes and beats, and it takes over two minutes before we start to hear strings getting plucked. True to his as-is methodology, the playing, loops and layering throughout are all done in real time with only minimal edits where necessary.

His actual fretwork is almost as minimal; he ignores speed and flash in favor of rolling out each idea at the right easy pace. It's an album of one mood that avoids becoming monotone. The pieces are always shifting or easing in and out as we drift along. Either the bass or beats on their own would probably be too sparse for active listening, but together they always make sure there's just enough—and of equal importance, just little enough—going on.

Steve Lawson
The Way Home

To differ from its counterpart right off, The Way Home begins with a most lovely ear-pleasing groove perfect for a slow summer morning. Now the bass sounds like a smooth-toned guitar soloing over a beat that could just go on all day. Lawson is still in thoughtful mode through the remainder of this one, but casts the net a little wider; he occasionally dabbles in minor chords and isn't afraid to let the electronic tones get harsh or squiggly. The tracks gradually get more formless as they flow along, to the point where "Three Days in New York..." is more an emotional tone poem than a recognizable song.

Just to switch up again, the final piece returns to melody with a bass groove that slides from smooth to slightly funky. It's a surprising but appropriate representation of the album as a whole; the sections may be different, but they serve the same overall feel. The listener doesn't know what to expect from one performance to another, but then neither did the musician when making it. We both have to simply take it as it comes and be open to whatever kind of day we're going to have next.

Tracks and Personnel

A Crack Where the Light Gets In

Theoria (triptych i); It's Our Scars That Unite Us; Poiesis (triptych ii); The Ice Cracks But Holds Firm; Praxis (triptych iii); This Is My Truth... Tell Me Yours.

Personnel: Steve Lawson: recording, mixing, artwork, photography, composition, all instruments (live).

The Way Home

Tracks: The Way Home; Ask Me Again in Twenty Years; A Little Lower Than the Angels; Looking for the Burning Dog; Three Days in New York Can Change You For Ever; Shut Out the World.

Personnel: Steve Lawson: Bass/electronic percussion/synths/looping/mixing/mastering/artwork/photography/control freakery/everything.


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