Several of the pieces on Scott Worthington’s new album “Prism” were composed prior to or at around the same time as “Even The Light Itself Falls”, the long-form trio performed by ensemble et cetera in a recording released around a couple of years ago. This is most apparent in “At dusk”, a comparatively short number incorporating rapid leaping triplets and plaintive chords that recall similar features in the trio piece. What immediately sets “At dusk” and the rest of the five tracks on the album apart is their orchestration: the only instrument performed on the release is double bass. Subtly integrated electronics produce delicate halos quivering in the spaces between the notes in “At Dusk”, and are so subtly integrated in “Reflections (in memorium Stefano Scodanibbio)” that I can’t even tell what they are doing, but other than that, it’s all bass.
That’s not to say that these are all solos, however. “Quintet (after Feldman)”, presented here in two versions, creates chords that are as rich and murky as the deepest dark corners of a seventeenth-century portrait, using no less than (you’ve guessed it) five basses. “Prism” uses three of them to set out a rainbow of different colours and ideas, from tense, scuttling beginnings to surging chords. “Reflections” is listed as being scored for a single bass, but there are several parts heard simultaneously, so I’m guessing the inscrutable electronics must involve some kind of looping: the deep, growling ground seems to be made of several layers, over which a high-pitched melodic fragment keens. This keening later finds its reflection on the ground, a shuffle of sidewinder trails in the dust.
As in previous Worthington releases, repetition is used frequently in order to probe interesting timbres or harmonies, without needing to support elaborate structures. The tones of his bass are rich and full throughout. This is not a musician who feels compelled to rely on extended techniques or exaggerated novelty to make his music stand out; rather, he seems focused on creating affecting and absorbing sound-spaces that linger on the senses long after the strings or the speakers have fallen quiet. This is something that “Prism” achieves with aplomb, making it a must-hear album for anyone interested in how music can change our perceptions of space and time, regardless of genre.
Photo by Sara Ballance