Bass Communion: Pacific Codex

It would be hard to imagine a more deluxe presentation of Bass Communion's Pacific Codex than the one provided to it by Equation Records and sleeve designer Carl Glover. There are two discs, one the conventional CD and the other a DVD that presents the material in a 5.1 surround sound format and also includes additional photographs. Accompanying the discs is a thirty-six-page booklet of ocean photography, and, topping it off, all of the elements are housed within a durable mini-box. For those new to the Bass Communion project, it's the brainchild of Porcupine Tree founder Steven Wilson. The source material (two parts, each about twenty minutes in length) was performed by Wilson and Theo Travis (who has also performed in Porcupine Tree) in January, 2006 using metal sculptures provided by Steve Hubback, after which Wilson processed and edited the material into its final form. Listeners familiar with Thomas Koner's gong recordings might naturally find themselves reminded of them while listening to Pacific Codex.

Throughout the first part, muffled drones advance and recede, filling the cavernous, empty space with waves of blurry sound masses that are intermittently punctuated by clangorous percussive strikes. The rise and fall of the core material is effected subtly, in such a way that the music's breathing seems much like a human being's. The second part emerges quietly, its gong-like reverberations appearing after an introductory episode of dribbling noises directly suggestive of an aquatic realm. Lest anyone assume otherwise, the material is anything but static, as becomes plainly evident when the stormy second half of “Pacific Codex 2” grows increasingly agitated and insistent. And while the sound masses might possess a metallic character, their blurry quality also suggests the out-of-focus character that elements take on as they plunge ever further into the watery depths. Adding to the hypnotic effect of Pacific Codex is the fact that Wilson elected to shape the material into rolling waves of sustain rather than jarring stabs that would have kept the listener constantly on edge, bracing him/herself for the next jolt. All details aside, it's a release tailor-made for those with an appetite and appreciation for immersive sound-sculpting.

March 2012