Bass Clef May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A cacophonous cavalcade of exotic percussion.

Matthew Bennett 2009

Modern life has not been kind to the one-man-band. Yet Ralph Cumbers is fighting back. Splicing the archaic format of playing-every-instrument-at-once with the most futuristic of genres, dubstep, he takes an area dominated by reclusive young bedroom producers and sets fire to it live on stage.

May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way is his second album and builds on his contemplative debut, A Smile is a Curve That Straightens Most Things, with more direct songs. It is, in fact, the abridged version of his captivating live show in which, thanks to technology, he loops together all manner of shakes, beats, rattles and trumps to form songs best described as somewhere between giddy dubstep and wonky carnival.

The album’s landscape is dominated during its first two thirds by frenetic, obsessive 2-step rhythms populated by Cumbers’ cacophonous cavalcade of exotic percussion, bells, whistles and even a theremin. Here songs like Hackney Lionheart and You Do My Head In are boisterous dancefloor tracks revealing the years spent honing this experimental project around the world’s clubs.

Splashed colourfully across its entirety is Cumbers’ trademark trombone which creates a haunted, skanking journey that leads down a sinister path which Jerry Dammers might have taken The Specials had they not combusted through fractious personality.

The trombone also allows him to improvise all sorts of notes which, once sent round a maze of effects pedals and processors, create deep bass frequencies not yet plumbed by younger dubstep peers such as Youngsta, Skream and Benga. Skull-quaking vibrations.

But it’s not all molten walls of bass as the album pivots around the chilled crossroad of the 12-minute Fix this Broken Love, which precedes the equally down-tempo Halliwick. Here, phasing, drone-based distortions take the place of his manipulated percussion.

Bass Clef’s intuitive and exciting work is best absorbed in the flesh, where one can witness the true fervour of creation. However, this album faithfully immortalises the impressive feat of one man conjuring so much sound and details a single-minded and unconventional journey away from dubstep’s jostling pack.

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