Provisional Grooves

Thanks to everyone who was listening so attentively last night and a special thanks to those of you who bought CDs – we hope you enjoy them!   I thoroughly enjoyed the gig and the set by Cibelle was great: some really novel ideas on how to use loops and some lovely grooves. 

For those of you who couldn’t make it, Cibelle was accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer.  She played a variety of instruments, including a guitar, a keyboard (with various digi-weirdness) and a stylophone.  Though they had a pretty full sound, there were times when the music was pumping and I couldn’t help wondering why they’d chosen to omit a bass player.  It’s not that I felt the bass would be crucial – it sounded great as it was – but when establishing a groove (as the Moose never tires of pointing out) a bass can give you that push over the cliff to ultimate ‘phatness’.  I know the absence of a bass isn’t exactly new in music, but it is an interesting phenomenon as it moves to a more mainstream position. 

So anyway, I was thinking about that, and it occurred to me that the effect of missing out a range of bottom end tones gives the music a certain rawness (again, not news) but also – to my ears – a certain ‘provisional’ sound.  By that I mean it’s interesting to listen to because it sounds incomplete (to ears like mine that are used to bass-drenched funk.)  And then I started wondering if this is popular music finally reflecting postmodern suspicion of grand – or meta – narratives.  Stay with me.  If, as Francois Lyotard asserted, we no longer believe that it is possible to express truth in a complete way – say, the Western myth of history as unending progress – and in fact we are now inately suspicious of anything that seems to assert the possibility of such completeness, then maybe provisional grooves are the logical correlative of that.  So the power of something like the White Stripes or Cibelle last night incorporates a (largely unconscious) refusal to express any piece as a closed, completed  system.  The growth of live improvisation within the realms of digital manipulation is a similar thing, but I might blab on about that another time.  So, provisional grooves as postmodern statement? It’s just a thought.  On the other hand, maybe last night the bass player was sick.    


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  1. I wonder why that didn’t occur to me? I was just thinking – “where’s the bass?”

    Seriously though – stunning gig. Plenty of low frequency from the laptop, pitch shifters and huge sounding kick drum. Really cutting-edge sound. I’ve seen many bands fusing technology with organic instruments (and I’m referring to the low-tech drummer playing a ladder, shock-absorber spring, frame drum and bat-cymbal, not to mention Cibelle’s sublime and pure vocals) but this was beyond the obvious. In a couple of tunes I felt I was experiencing the future of groove.
    A bit of sly double-bass wouldn’t have gone amiss though }: )
    (Mind you, we did turn up without a drummer…)

  2. Re your: (Mind you, we did turn up without a drummer…)

    Good point. And a criticism that could be levelled at us even when we’re playing as a three piece. 🙂

  3. Don’t know about Francois Lyotard expressing incomplete postmodernist suspicions of bass players – what I want to know is, when are you chaps coming back to Paris again???

  4. Didn’t he invent the tutu? Paris – can’t be soon enough, though I think current plans are next September : ( Obviously our album launch will be before then & you’ll need to be over here for the gig : )

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