Steve Lawson - "...And Nothing But The Bass: Live @ The Troubadour" (Pillow Mountain Records 2000, PMR 0011)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
And Nothing But The Bass is just that... a solo bass performance by Steve Lawson playing with a live sampler and accompanying himself on the resulting loops. Lawson plays beautifully, but though it's clear he's an accomplished musician this music is more about style, technique, melody, and atmosphere than flash and shred. As for technique, I had to re-read the promo material a number of times to convince myself this was indeed a bass-only performance as I'd swear there was guitar on a couple tracks.
"The Inner Game", "Blue Sticks", and "Bittersweet" are all melodic light jazz tunes that sound gorgeous on the fretless. "Bittersweet" is the one studio track on the album and also the only track with an additional musician, here playing piano. Really nice music but not among the more adventurous music to be found here. "Virtue Of The Small" is the track where I'm scratching my head imaging that this is a bass and not a guitar. Quite impressive. Searing, somewhat Frippoid, rock licks against a light jazzy background. And "The New Country" is a fun simple rockin' piece.
"Drifting", "Chance", and "Pillow Mountain" are the tracks that would most appeal to Aural Innovations readers. There could be no other title for "Drifting". Lawson sets the pace with a simple melodic pattern over which he plays cosmic licks. Much of the bass sounds are in the Frippoid soundscapes style though Lawson's sound is far more spacey. Beautiful spacey stretched out notes as well as more bubbly freaky syncopated patterns. Like a cross between Fripp and Manual Göttsching. Just as some of this music sounds like guitar, "Chance" certainly sounds like it has a synth player. Mucho spacey noodlings dance about while the fretless kicks out it's simple but impassioned licks. And on "Pillow Mountain" Lawson is getting a LOT of mileage out of his bass, producing loads of cosmic patterns, tones, and textures, not to mention creating an impressively trippy atmospheric piece.
In summary, Lawson succeeds in showcasing the range of his instruments' possibilities while also creating enjoyable and interesting music. The album's real strength lies in it's variety, from Frippoid soundscapes, to jazz, and ambient space. I'd be interested in hearing more from Lawson as his web site indicates he's done quite a number of collaborations across various styles.
For more information you can visit Steve Lawson at his web site. There's LOADS of info there. Check it out.
Contact via snail mail c/o Pillow Mountain Records; PO Box 13788; London N14 5WD; UK.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz