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Bass Communion – Thief of Snow

31st January 2024

Back in the late nineties most of my releases were mastered by a lovely fellow by the name of Chris Thorpe, who ran a mastering studio from a farm in the countryside of Nottinghamshire called Serendipity. As a sideline Chris and his colleague Dallas Simpson were experimenting with binaural recording, whereby sound is recorded using a dummy head containing two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the performers. One day he told me he had been approached by a company he worked with to create soundscapes for use as background on a series of 6 spoken word CDs by infamous television personality and self-proclaimed “psychic” Uri Geller. He wanted to record it in binaural audio and would I be interested in contributing? Whilst I had no interest in being associated with Geller, I was curious about the binaural process, especially when Chris said they had access to a church to record the sounds in a space with its own natural acoustics and reverberation. It would need some kind of soloist to take advantage of the opportunity, so I invited my friend the brilliant saxophone and flute player (and honorary member of Bass Communion) Theo Travis to join me in the experiment. And so on a cold winter’s day in early 1999 with snow fresh on the ground we made the trip to a church in Nottinghamshire and spent several hours making recordings of Theo improvising, captured by Chris and Dallas using the binaural head system.

It was fun to make music in this way, but it also needed to fit the brief to be in a meditational “new-age” style. While some of it was indeed used for 2 of the Uri Geller CDs (which came out with little or no promotion and sold pretty much nothing), meanwhile I was becoming more interested in making Bass Communion darker and more atonal, so the music we made that day was otherwise put aside and largely forgotten. In the intervening 25 years new-age music has undergone some sort of renaissance and reappraisal, not least with myself, so now I can enjoy them for the meditational soundscapes they are.

Presented here are 3 pieces retrieved from the archives and remastered. These feature Theo’s improvised saxophone, flute and bamboo flute (he was moving around the church as he was playing, so sometimes you can also hear his footsteps). To these recordings I later added keyboard drones and percussion and mixed them in my studio.

My association with spatial audio since then has become one of the defining aspects of my career, so it’s interesting to me that these recordings must have been my very first experience with it.

SW – January 2024