“Meditative passages that are bravely expansive… Steven Wilson continues to deconstruct sound as much as he makes it”: Bass Communion’s The Itself Of Itself

Noise and abstract beauty abound in a work that slows the world down to the point of being liminal

Bass Communion
(Image: © Fourth Dimension)

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It’s been 13 years since Steven Wilson last graced the world with a full Bass Communion album – and given his prolific output, it’s a wonder The Itself Of Itself arrived so soon.

In just a few years he’s managed to bring out a Porcupine Tree record and two solo albums, as well as overseeing the prog-focused seven-LP box set Intrigue. Then there’s his sideline in spatial audio remixing for the likes of King Crimson, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull and Yes.

On top of that, there were two Bass Communion tracks released in 2021 as part of the soundtrack of Wilson’s ongoing, as-yet- unreleased film project, And No Birds Sing.

The Itself Of Itself feels almost like the antidote to all that activity. These seven tracks slow the world down to such a degree that they almost feel liminal. Predominantly for the attention of fans of drone visionaries Sunn O))) and Earth, the album also contains long, meditative passages that are redolent of the bravely expansive terrain explored by Fripp and Eno half a century ago.

Steven Wilson

(Image credit: Future)

Wilson continues to deconstruct sound as much as he makes it, with the modus operandi to take analogue noise on a journey, starting with unwanted production by-products like flutter and hiss. Musique concrète and studio manipulation take everyday sounds into the cosmic, enticing the listener with surprising patches of hypnotic warmth or euphony, products of chance from controlled environments.

The title track features a Mellotron flute that decays and distorts as the epic soundscape disintegrates. Ahards of melody that suggest themselves, hidden somewhere in among the aural gloaming, accompanied by indistinctive burbling emerging from the shadows, though it’s a cacophony for the most part.

The best way to listen to the album is in a spare hour where nothing is happening, interrogating the sound in a meditative, non-critical way

There are moods elsewhere that are more ambient and welcoming, such as Apparition 3, a sequence of three sustained notes that oscillate wanly, quavering as they ride the waves unhurriedly. It’s spartan and enigmatic, and in spite of those descriptors, it’s the most musical thing here, becoming more and more mesmerising as each note shimmers in the distance in keeping with its title.

For all of Wilson’s busyness, the best way to listen to The Itself Of Itself is in a spare hour where nothing is happening, interrogating the sound in a meditative, non-critical way. Blackmail may throw up beauty within the radio static that permeates it; A Study For Tape Hiss And Other Audio Artefacts may even offer moments of tranquillity.

Perhaps most pleasing of all is opener Unperson, maintaining a drawn-out cinematic tension that really doesn’t disappoint when the climax finally kicks in.

The Itself Of Itself is out now via Fourth Dimension.