Review: Obasquiat – Strugatsky

The bass guitar is often at the centre. It’s the mediator between rhythm and melody, helping me establish my sense of up and down within the music. It’s also often the source of satiation that brings fullness and coherence to the act of instruments in dialogue; when everything else is whirling around me, I can always tune into the bass to find out which direction I should be facing. Strugatsky takes this dynamic to the extreme. The album is a crateful of obscure collages, rehearsal room tapes, bedroom ambience and noise rock experiments. Yet as the record jerks between fidelities and intensities – from wah pedal screeches of “Amídalas”, to the meditative, echo-saturated solo on “Aos Tolos em Conserva” – the bass guitar remains the protagonist. Microphones come and go, acoustics shrink and expand, drums trundle into the frame and pass out the other side. The bass guitar is always there, like a single piece of string running right through the centre.

This bass is at once the instigator and perceiver of change. The drumless, mumbling funk riff on “Sudão (Dinkas)” leads the other instruments to heed its melancholic cue, with the guitar planting a mournful solo on top and strings overlaying themselves into a grief-stricken chant. On “Thalassophobia”, the bass riles the drums into a spiky 4/4, and the two instruments growl at eachother from across the jam space. Yet the bass is also the subject of these assorted experiences. It’s through this instrument that I make sense of Strugatsky. Marco Antonio’s improvisations seem to distil the chaos into something I can comprehend, aggregating atmosphere and harmony into simple arrangements of fretwork. Without it, this album would be without continuity, jerking recklessly between states with no consideration for where I’ve come from or where I’m heading to. The instrument is, in some senses, the vital reminder that all of these disparate events have a common author. Obasquiat is the bass guitar, and the bass guitar is Obasquiat.