I have a hard time with albums or live performances that consist of a single solo instrument (with the exception of solo piano). Acoustic bass in particular is tough for me to handle in a solo setting - I believe I saw improviser Reuben Radding do a solo upright bass set some years ago and truly had difficulty staying awake, even though Radding is a massively talented musician.
So when I received a package in the mail some time ago with the new Aranis album Songs From Mirage (yay!), and a recording of Aranis composer Joris Vanvinckenroye’s works for solo bass (under the band name Basta!), it’s not surprising that I spent some time with the full-band record and, embarrassingly, none at all on the solo bass record. I’m only now getting around to the Basta! disc, Cycles, and that’s a shame, because it’s fantastic.
Cycles has Vanvinckenroye’s stamp all over it, of course, not just in the instrumentation but in the compositions. The 12 pieces on the record are chock-full of the tasty melodies, rhythmic grooves and intriguing counterpoints of Vanvinckenroye’s Aranis compositions. But wait, you say: counterpoints? On a solo record? Yes, there are tons of overdubs going on here. This might as well be a full band recording, if the full band were all playing basses; it’d be impossible to pull off live as a solo show, but who cares? A far cry from an improvised set tossed off as an accompaniment to the new Aranis record, Cycles is a fully realized set of engaging compositions that just might be better than Songs From Mirage.
I’ve given it one and a half listens so far and you can bet that it’ll be getting many more.
UPDATE: “impossible to pull off live as a solo show” - WRONG! Everything is possible with enough pedals. Thanks to Dave Kerman for the tip.