Rothko is a band that consists of three bassists. That sounds
like it might be kind of tedious, and it would be if the three
bassists all played "normal rock band bass". In most
rock bands, the bassists plays a simple riff designed to help
keep rhythm. The instrument is capable of so much more. For
example, it can carry a melody as well as a guitar: just listen
to New Order, Joy Division, Monaco, or anything else featuring
the basswork of Peter Hook.
The bass can be used to convery a complex range of sounds,
even if in mosts bands it is not used thusly.
Rothko, apparently, consists of three virtuosos of the instrument:
Jon Meade, Crawford Blair, and Mark Beazley. On three of the
tracks on this disc they are joined by Cocteau Twins bassist
Simon Raymonde, thus bringing the complement of bassists up
to four! Yikes.
At any rate, this album has a residual melancholy to it, which
i think comes from the instrument. The bass has a deep, rich
sound, and i often find it mournful. The seven tracks on this
album are seeped in a certain melancholy. It's quite lovely
Now, just because Rothko is a band of 3 (sometimes 4) bassists
it does not mean that other sounds are not on the album. There
are drum samples, keyboard samples, and even a sitar! However,
the album is mostly bass.
The songs are composed of bass riffs that float and intertwine
amongst each other. As if the sounds are doing some elaborate
dance. It makes for some very complicated and fascinating melodies.
Of particular note is In The Pulse Of an Artery, the
title and lead off track. This song gets things going wonderfully
with one bass doing a steady rhythm, one playing distorted and
drawn out riffs, while the third adds a lovely counter-melody
over top. It's a really well-done song that grows and swells.
Another standout is Imprint Of Leaves, which features
Mr. Raymonde laying down some nice vocals buried in the background
that nonetheless harmonize with the melody. The song ends with
a thundering riff that sounds like the bass on One Of These
Days by Pink Floyd.
The album ends with the lovely Harold Budd, which is
built around a sample from one of Mr. Budd's albums. This is
a lovely tune in that the sample adds so much depth to the sound.
Which, when you get down to it, is the problem with this album.
Yes, the three (or four) members of Rothko are masters of their
instrument, and yes i believe that the bass is capable of a
wider range of sounds that it is usually used for, but i do
not think that this sound is fulfilled here.
This is a seven track album, and i mention three as standouts
due to some unique component. However, the four remaining tracks
seem to blur together. Rothko build their songs by having one
bass play a repetetive riff as a sort of melody, while the second
bass plays a deep accompanyment (much like traditional rock
bass-work), while the third instrument plays a melody over top.
The other four songs follow this formula. Well, in all honesty,
all of the songs on this disc follow that formula, but the three
tracks i mention standout for other reasons.
Don't get me wrong -- i really like the music. It is quite
interesting. However, i get bored listening to the album all
of the way through. There just isn't enough variety. I must
point out that any of the tracks on this album fit wonderfully
in mix tapes. The songs are interesting, but when you lay them
all out next to each other it gets tedious.
One final note: this release is Volume 2 of Bella Union's Series
Seven. It continues their series of releases of (largely) instrumental
albums of seven tracks each. I have reviewed the previous release,
so you might want to check it out.