Bass supremo Ayse Hassan has a couple or three projects going that merit a good listen to while her band Savages take a break. She played an enthralling Moog Soundsystem gig at London’s ICA with Fay Milton (Savages drummer) and Martin Dubka in mid-January, bits of which are surfacing on Soundcloud, and the trio play again at Moth Club in London as Otomo X on 16 March. In between these experimental sound projects, Hassan has been on tour as half of Kite Base, with Kendra Frost making up the rest of this unique double-bass band.
Frost adds vocals and synths to the two bassists’ tunes, while intense drum machines and linear video projections complete the show. They cook up a dark and danceable brew, most recently at Kamio in London’s trendy Shoreditch, where a small but intrigued crowd becomes increasingly riveted to the duo’s concoctions, which add a veneer of synth pop to heavy industrial lines.
Hassan’s repeating, riffing bass lines are up there with the tunes Peter Hook conjured from his strings for Joy Division and New Order, if not quite as jaw-dropping as Barry Adamson’s work for Magazine. ‘Soothe’ and ‘Dadum’, the tracks on the group’s single from late last year, bookend the eight-track set. But ‘Soothe’ has grown a long intro since it was recorded, as Frost doodles with her sequencers and Hassan strokes her bass strings to create atmosphere. Given the way these weird noises start the set, ‘Soothe’s chorus is surprisingly poppy and the drum machine bounces along accessibly.
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‘Blueprint’ and ‘Grids’ are more repetitive and industrial, although Frost’s voice soars on the latter in a vocal that contrasts fascinatingly with the chopping electronic rhythms and mellifluous bass. ‘Erase’ gradually unfolds to more scratchy effects, as Hassan runs a weight across her bass strings, before Frost’s folky singing and buzzing bass guitars take over — like “chalk on a blackboard”. Frost sings “I’ll start again” and the song collapses into a between-track drone like wind or water.
Out of this erupts the quick and hard bass of ‘Transition’, paired with a drum track closer to Joy Division than the New Order-ish beats of some of the night’s earlier tracks. Hassan’s beautiful high bass notes pair with Frost’s synth noises. Then the boom-boom-clack-clack of ‘Miracle Waves’ takes over and it’s Frost’s turn to play the higher registers on her bass, while Hassan focuses on the deep top string of hers. “Take me higher”, sinks Frost before brilliantly fuzzing her bass while Hassan’s remains pure. The pattern repeats as the interplay of the two four-strings is arranged brilliantly.
Visual projections wobble in time to the rhythm of ‘Nineteen’ and Frost’s vocals recall Smoke Fairies, against an industrial drum machine and fat synth. All the while, Hassan’s quietly insistent bass anchors the song in a post-punk goth world of “shadows on fire”, reminiscent of The Cure and Echo and The Bunnymen. The track ends to train station noises and frost says “thank you”, before Kite Base end with the onomatopoeia of ‘Dadum’ — “dam dam dadum” it goes as Hassan dances along to the buzz buzz of her melodic bass. She writhes like a thrumming string. It’s hard to sum up the Kite Base experience any better than Frost herself does, when she concludes: “A poem in motion…. she walks like a beating drum.”
Kite Base support Thor & Friends (featuring Thor Harris of Swans and Shearwater) this spring:
29 April – Glasgow, The Hug and Pint
30 April – Manchester, Deaf Institute
1 May – Leeds, Brudenell
2 May, London, Lexington
3 May, Brighton, The Green Door Store
Kite Base release their debut album ‘Latent Whispers’ in May via PledgeMusic: