Wednesday, December 14, 2016

U2 - Bass Trap

I will have my favorite albums of 2016 up in a few days. But until then, here is "Bass Trap" from the b-side of the "The Unforgettable Fire" (1985) single by U2. I first heard this track, I think, in the spring of 1989, when I was at my (then) girlfriend's apartment. There was this kind of hippie hipster dude who lived upstairs, I forget his name, he had long hair and played guitar all day. So I went through his vinyl collection and recorded a bunch of stuff onto cassette, one of the tracks being this. I had the cassette for many years, and on long (very long) drives, at some point, this track would come on. It still always reminds me of her apartment complex, called "Taos," and my languid lazy days that spring when I was deluded with some misplaced notion that I could hold off "real life" and its obligations literally forever...

"Bass Trap" was my first real introduction to ambient music, the kind especially when seemingly "nothing happens." I didn't know that Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, and kraut rock in general had already perfected this aesthetic. For me this was a brand new world. I know it's a minority opinion, but something about "nothing happens" really captivated me as a listener, and still does. I love the idea of repetition, endless repetition in music, but also a deceptively kind of repetition where once you hear something repetitive, 10,000 times, you begin to notice that there are subtle differences between minute 1 to minute 5. But that's not really the point. The point is that there is beauty and transcendence in repetition.

Anyway, the Edge says this about this track:

Recorded for The Unforgettable Fire album at Slane Castle. One of the experimental tracks that didn't make the cut, it came via the [Brian] Eno bag of tricks. In his case, we used a device that allowed you to trap a short musical passage and loop it ad infinitum. This exact idea went on to become the catalyst of an entire music culture called hip hop. Here we simply looped a few bars of Adam's bass, then I played guitar and Daniel Lanois played pedal steel on top.

Well, a bit of a forgotten track from the U2 discography, but a brilliant one, anticipating many Aphex Twin experiments from the 1990s. Crank it up on a long drive and ZONE OUT:

1 comment:

Patrick McCray said...

Huh. I had forgotten about this track for 2 decades. I don't think I liked it as the time as it wasn't "True U2". Now, well, it's quite fine.