29 February 2016

Atmospheric Conditions

(Or: 'Bass Bits' Shootout Blahblah, Part Whatever -- the Post-punk/Proto-Goth Years)

Here's one I don't believe has turned up in any of Simon's bass polling: Barry Adamson.

Plenty of Magazine tracks where Adamson's bass all but takes the lead. If I recall, he once claimed he didn't learn how to play until the evening before the auditioning for Devoto's band. A bought a used bass guitar, but didn't have an amp, so he practiced by resting the neck of the guitar against the headboard of his bed, working out notes notes and riffs from the vibrations buzzing through the wood.

Perhaps Jah Wobble is an obvious -- if not a too-obvious -- nominee. Sure, Keith Levene's guitar tended to dominate much f the time, but Wobble kept things tethered. And according to a recent interview, he concurs with Adamson's method of self-instruction:

"'Where does bass dwell? It’s not in the bass. It’s in the interaction of things.' Learning to make drones by direct contact with a physical solid object 'actually taught me more,' he reflects, 'than having it powered into an amp. It's natural vibration.'"

A lot of music of the post-punk era was formative, high-school listening for me. Including the above,  lots of Joy Division, New Order Gang of Four and the Birthday Party and the like. I suppose the prominence of a certain type of bass playing had something to do it's appeal at the time. As well as its prominence in the mix, looming to the fore as something more than mere support. And often a style of playing that seemed to thread a lot of it together. Of course, the post-punk predilection for funk, disco, and reggae influences probably had a lot to do with it. Those influences, filtered through -- in a few cases -- a Holger Czukay-inspired sense of bedrock minimalism.

A couple other bassists of the era who I think helped prove as style-setters....

Definitely in the case of Japan's Mick Karn. And while Severin may not have been the most technically skilled of bassists, but became a model for imitation, nonetheless. Each had their own eccentric way of working their parts out. And both -- as well as The Cure's Simon Gallup, Simple Minds' Derek Forbes, and Peter Hook (all cited by Simon and other contributors to the poll) -- were partly responsible for providing bass styles that in certain circles would help formulate an era-specific sense of sonic atmospherics over the next several years, with the Banshees/Cure influence being perhaps the most predominant...

And David J of Bauhaus receives his fair share of accolades in this area, but...

A few scattered tunes by Daniel Ashe's post-Bauhuas project Tones on Tail caught my ear back back the mid- '80s, mainly the ones were the bass did most of the lifting. Not David J accompanying, rather one Glenn Campling, who had apparently previously been Bauhaus's roadie.

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