Basic House. Basic House? A moniker so dubious it piqued my interest....
Long ago I'd be in my natural habitat, the record shop, and boys would be in there because that's was where boys liked to be, a stack of Dance Music 12s on the counter, the assistant playing snippets of them - the start and middle, awaiting the nod or shake of the customer's head. Next! And so on - fascinating to me since all those House records sounded the same - basic House to these ears...
Now with a trillion files to hear the surfeit of sound sucks us into snippet listening - click - 20 seconds - click - 20 seconds - click - thinking appraisal is possible in the briefest of sonic encounters and for us more experienced listeners, it usually is, but even the best ears can be wrong. We test sound via samples on sites like Boomkat, determined to endure their embedded bleep, presumably created to prevent...what, exactly? Someone downloading a 1min 30sec sample?
Boomkat is where I spotted Basic House, of course, being my favourite 'shop', these days. This week they recommended Caim In Bird Form, which has just been reissued by Digitalis, originally being on limited cassette. Basic House is Stephen Bishop, whose Opal Tapes label specialised in limited cassettes before recently moving on to vinyl. I welcome this new digital(is) release, not being one for collecting tapes or vinyl. I say that with some shame, after all, I wholly support the DIY ethic in printed or sonic form, theoretically. But like many of you, perhaps, that support seldom stretches to actually purchasing products, especially musical ones, on awkward formats such as tape, and olde-revived vinyl.
Bishop is one of those types lurking in the shadows at the metaphorical club, not dancing, watching, shrewdly listening out for something special. Between the dance floor and the depths of sound beyond, these creatures swim to and fro, hybridising something in their heads that might acknowledge both worlds without strictly belonging to either. The pop mechanics of mutated sound is made manifest by the likes of Nick Edwards and Dominick Fernow's Vatican Shadow, connecting with Modern Love and their sound world, where Techno, Drone and Avant-Electronics are alchemised.
Whilst supposedly 'experimental' or 'progressive' forms of any genre frequently take the form of mild tinkering that belies the limited vision and creative ability of aspiring artists, Bishop's Caim In Bird Form is better than that. Aspirin Telepath's dark, psychotic speech sample slowed right down lends it a feeling of the best horror soundtracks before we're dragged into I Found U. Despite the Prince-like title, it's anything but Funky or romantic, more I-found-you-in-the-darkest-corner-of-a-nightmare, and a such, delivers a restrained exercise in dread electronics. I Don't Remember Acid (if you remember Acid House, you weren't there?) paints a picture of the come-down experience in the ruins of Detroit via Mars, perhaps. 64 Bummer (another reference to bad tripping?) maintains the mired-in-electro-murk mood, with more depth plus mind-strafing effects.
So it goes, never really faltering in quality, from the post-Kosmische (TV Illness) to the Subotnik-inspired Ultra-Misted. The stand-out title track taps into Horror again and matches the best of Demdike Stare, complete with what sounds like knives being sharpened. Any critics hearing this album shouldn't be sharpening theirs.