Rothko and Caroline Ross: A Place Between
Lo Recordings

Mark Beazley (aka Rothko) weaves a powerful spell on A Place Between using … bass? Yes, bass is the album's primary instrument (in fact Rothko began in 1997 as a bass trio before disbanding in 2001, leaving Beazley the sole member), a fact immediately served notice with the pulsating bass duet drifting through the opener “Traces of Elements.” But the album's other major instrument soon joins in, namely Caroline Ross's intimate voice, thereby offering a humanizing counter to the steely, stark pluck of the bass. They're not the only instruments, however: Ross plays guitar (acoustic and electric guitars) and flute, and an elegant piano backs her relaxed utterance on “Divided Lines.”

Given that the album's minimal palette could translate into one-dimensionality, how is interest sustained? With contrast, that's how: compare the different songwriting styles of “Parts Per Million,” a gentle instrumental of flute, acoustic guitar, and bass, to “Light in A Dark Place,” a spoken word setting. “Bow” adopts an episodic approach, opening with an introduction that spotlights the howl of a harmonica; in the second section, Beazley takes over with a bass duet and in the third his acoustic bass backs Ross's fragile vocal. The album's dreamier side comes forth in “The Only Way Out Is Through” and “An Open Breath” but most strongly in “The Northern Lights Are Out” where delicate sprinklings of piano and bass coalesce into a placid ambient setting while Ross's whispered “look, look” hovers like a ghostly mantra. Bolstering that contrast, Beazley's approach to the instrument is multi-varied; sometimes his bass lines attack aggressively (“Divided Lines”) while at other times they're more of a subliminal, rumbling presence, the material's deep undercurrent.

June 2005