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The Bass Geek

Notes on the Bass-cation

Last weekend in Chicago provided some fruitful bass moments, including the following instances:

  • A fantastic show from Mehsell Ndegeocello - The Old Town School of Folk Music was a wonderfully intimate venue for the show, and Ndegeocello responded with some amazing songs. Highlights included a delicate bass-and-guitar reading of "Talk To Me" from her debut album, her covers of "Dirty Mind" and "Love You Down," and aggressive takes on material from her new album "Devil's Halo." I caught the second of two sets, and I can only think the first set warmed her band up for an exceptional second effort.
  • A magnificently brutal show from Mastodon and Dethklok at the Aragon Ballroom - The bands seemed to respond to that night's videotaping of the shows to put on a singular display of force and precision. Mastodon played their latest album front to back and then tossed in some of their later material. Dethklok balanced their songs with the requisite animated skits to create a multi-layered experience. It was metal that was at once expertly played and self-aware of some of the cliches in the genre. They didn't take it too seriously - they just went out and played it well.
  • The purchases of a new Bass Blogger distortion pedal and a Nordstrand MusicMan pickup - The pedal has an unfortunate name, but I can't argue with the fuzz sound I get out of it. And I'll report back on the pickup once it's installed in my Stingray, but I'm looking forward to some really good things. Bass Club Chicago was a great host and let me try a few pedals before deciding the Bass Blogger was the pedal for me. Thanks, folks!
  • Not quite a bass moment, but the Propellerheads Producer's Conference was a good time and a valuable way to pick up some tricks and tips on using Record.

Aside from a creepy hotel, the whole trip was a smashing success. Now to get back to playing with the new toys.


New Podcast Is Up, and Propellerhead Producers Conference

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2 Thursdays at 4pm.

So this weekend is supposed to be a "bass-cation" for me - concerts in Chicago from Meshell Ndegeocello and Mastodon/Dethklok, with a visit to Dusty Groove and Bass Club Chicago inbetween. Just found out, however, that Propellerheads is throwing a Producer's conference this Saturday as well, and it could fit well into my schedule. Have any readers been to one of these before, and can you tell me if it's worth the time and effort? It's going to be a busy weekend in any case, but this looks like it could be a lot of fun.


Year-End Top Ten

A local music aficionado asked for my year-end top ten list, and I inflict such things on IMN as a matter of course. For blog perusal, here it is:

1. Meshell Ndegeocello - The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams
2. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
3. M.I.A. - Kala
4. Ozomatli - Don't Mess With The Dragon
5. Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust
6. Common - Finding Forever
7. Talib Kweli - Eardrum
8. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
9. Robert Glasper - In My Element
10. Jay-Z - American Gangster

Local honorable mentions go to Cynthia Layne and The Born Again Floozies, and the reissue of the year is the Sly and the Family Stone boxset. Seriously, the box set is killer. Go get it now.


They’re calling me . . .

There are a couple shows coming up in Illinois that I may have to make spectacular work and driving arrangements to catch. Unfortunately, they're both on the same day, so that narrows it down quite a bit. November 13th has both Meshell NDegeocello playing at the Chicago House of Blues and the non-animated, touring version of Dethklok playing in Carbondale. I wouldn't normally be too impressed at the latter, except that the touring version features Mike Keanelly and Bryan Beller, two EXTREMELY impressive musicians that will no doubt have all kinds of fun playing big metal song instead of their usual highly technical, Zappa-esque fare.

The Ndegeocello show promises to be a little different than the last one I saw in Chicago, in that she probably won't leave the stage when confronted with fans expecting her more funky vocal tunes instead of the fusion jazz she was touring at the time. So that's a must-see.

In any case, they're both on a Tuesday, which means at least a day-and-a-half of travel time, 'cause I can't make that drive, come back, and still be functional in the morning. Feh.


Meshell’s Future Past

The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams marks Meshell Ndegeocello's return to the more rock- and funk-based music she's known for after the almost-side project of her jazz album, "Dance Of The Infidels." That album was probably the most faithful Ndegeocello has been to any one genre in her recording career, sticking as it did primarily to modern jazz sounds. Before that release (credited mainly to the Spirit Music Jamai), Ndegeocello pushed boundaries and challenged assumptions both about her music and her artistic limits. She returns to form on her latest release, taking her music to new and uncharted territory.

Hints of her new direction were offered in a couple different locations: The previously released Article 3 EP and her version of "National Anthem" from Exit Music, a Radiohead tribute album. The songs in this case feature some of the dub leanings of her previous album, Comfort Woman. While those leanings are indulged, they are stripped of their previous lushness, opting instead for sharp, angular tracks and harder-edged instrumentation. Ndegeocello takes over quite a few of the instruments on this recording, inviting luminaries like Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper onboard for selected tracks. The result is an abstract collage of music that hints at the edges of the songs, rather than fully describe them. It certainly feels different from the denser work of her previous albums (except for the spare nature of her third album, Bitter). There's no loss of strength or passion in the work - it just seems like she's requiring a little more from the listener to follow her.

The album needs to be taken as a whole - while songs like "The Sloganeer: Paradise" and "Shirk" stand on their own, they still meld into the larger work in a much more meaningful way. In a world of singles-or-death, that's a different concept. If you want to get into this album, give yourself a little time. This package should be unwrapped slowly.


Just a little behind

I think I got a little too caught up in the book stuff for the past few weeks. It's the only logical reason for me to ignore the new episodes of "Trapped In The Closet" sitting on my DVR for a few weeks, The DVR awaits youand the episode of Metalocalypse from Sunday. It's unforgivable, and I know it. Those matters were rectified this evening - I'm not sure they lived up to the anticipation, although it was good to see Mike Keneally in the vocal credits for a cartoon that allowed a metal band to turned crazed criminals loose on the world after a fireworks-show-cum-execution.

That sounds a little more disturbing once I type it out.

I've also got the new Meshell Ndegeocello disc sitting in my hot little hands, taunting me with unlistened potential. Ndegeocello might be the one artist I'll buy every album from for her entire career - beyond the exceptional musicianship and songwriting, there's an unpredictability to each recording. Click the website link for a quick visual example; you'll never be able to click on her past. From New Jack (Jill?) Swing to funk rock to Mitchell-esque acoustic to hip-hop and go-go to straight-up jazz (and that's just the solo career - don't forget about the math-jazz of Steve Coleman), she's experimented and succeeded with so much. I'll post a more in-depth review tomorrow if I get the chance to give it a good listen. The only thing I know for certain is that I'll be reaching for the bass more often this week - she's that inspiring.