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Baroque & Bassline

Lisa Blanning

Still reeling from Dave Tompkins’ fantastic presentation for his book on the vocoder How To Wreck A Nice Beach, at The Wire salon last week. Both the book and his talk are full of little coincidences and serendipitous overlaps. One that was particularly mind-boggling for me was Dave interviewing Florian Schneider and Wendy Carlos on the same day. I’d be quaking in my boots at the thought of talking to even one such towering figure in modern music, much less two in one day!
Naturally, ensuing office chat after the talk turned to Carlos’s Switched On Bach. Some (no names, ahem) don’t see the appeal, but I had to admit that I own the Switched On Boxed Set (you can listen to some audio clips from it here), which I bought a few years ago when I was listening to a lot of Bassline. That little revelation beggared another question: why would I make that connection? I had thought the answer to this was obvious and that I had addressed it already in my previous writings about Bassline. Well, actually, I hadn’t.
Bassline is a funny genre, and the music regularly makes me laugh. Its over-the-topness verges on the ridiculous and comes generally in two varieties. The first – which I’m not so keen on – is trashy pop mindlessness. The second – which I love – is pure unabashed rave abandon. But one of Bassline’s defining and most amusing traits is the use of arpeggiated synth lines, which regularly recall the Baroque melodies that Carlos was famous for recreating and amplifying. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4JYTndRU-c

This Youtube clip of T2's "Oh Boy" (from his The Monster Dubz EP 12") was obviously taken from a mix, so the track isn't freed from the previous one until about the 30 second mark, exactly when those synths come in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KQif8Xpous

This is the b-side track to Dexplicit's Lifey 12", called "Over You Rmx" with Kasia. It's only the first half of the track, but you can hear the synths – a little more clumsy in this one, but still riffing Carlos-style – at around the 56 second mark.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NTSh_cI5Ik

This DJ Pyper track "What A Load" was only released digitally, and I first heard it on an excellent, short Bassline mix that Zomby did for Mad Decent. Look out for the synths around the 53 seconds mark.

While I'm only highlighting the Wendy Carlos synth connection here, the use of strings by quite a few of these Bassline producers is another (perhaps slightly more tenuous) link to the music of 'respectable' long-dead, white guys. Check out the T2 and DJ Pyper tracks again and listen out for that.

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