Machines and two women on bass guitars combine to create Kite Base and their intense album ‘Latent Whispers’. This is an electronic project, often minimalist and industrial, but the two bass guitars give it life — enhanced by vocals from Kendra Frost. Her drum machine often sounds like early New Order, and the bass tunes from Ayse Hassan (on a break from Savages) are up there with the Peter Hook back catalogue.
The unsuspecting might ask what kind of crazy detuned six-string guitar creates the buzzing chords on ‘Transition’ — answer: it’s a four-string bass. Another bass plays a quick, insistent tune across its four strings while Frost’s drum machine and synthesiser add the beat and flourishes.
Repeated use of an astonishing bass guitar feedback roar makes ‘Dadum’ an incredible track — it sounds like the speakers are about to burst open. The engineers must have been worried when Frost and Hassan laid it down. The “dum dum dadum” vocals on a loop and Frost’s understated singing give space to the twin bass dance that defines this whole album: “It captures heart and soul.” Voices add layers above the synth rhythms and bass guitars at the high and low end of the instrument’s capabilities.
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Hassan’s tuneful bass on ‘Blueprint’ is straight out of the Peter Hook textbook for Joy Division and early New Order. The lyrics define the Kite Base method: “Your pure intention. Simple pattern flowing. Repetition.” The second bass buzzes and the synth trumpets beneath backing vocals that ring out as if the music were sacred; cinematic. And all the while Hassan’s dreamy bass tune continues.
The near-religious tone continues into the slower ‘Erase’, electronic percussion and just a few well chosen low bass notes, where “I’ll start again” repeats like Gregorian chant. ‘Soothe’ — a double A-side single with ‘Dadum’ last year — is all about atmospheric synth noises, the clacketty, bouncing drum machine, Hassan’s peerless bass playing and the melody in Frost’s voice.
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The treated bass even seems to run backwards on ‘Peripheral Vision’, or again sounds at times like a buzzy detuned electric lead guitar. “I don’t want it anymore,” sings Frost. “Get, get away.” The breakup song leaves no doubt that a relationship has broken, but — like a lot of the album — it’s quite danceable.
Pushing the bass further in ‘Nineteen’, it takes on the air of an orchestral cello. Frost’s vocals are sweet and gentle, a throwback to Young Marble Giants. The drum track is like a stripped down, minimalist Unknown Pleasures or something from early Bauhaus. Not for the first time, the overlaying bass arrangements are breathtaking.
Hassan’s beautiful, mellifluous bass plays over ‘Low’-era David Bowie-style synths in ‘Grids’ and the lyrics again deal with a key theme — “repetition”. Bass patterns repeat over and over but Frost changes key, hitting a higher register to bring the reiterations to an end.
“Take me higher,” Frost sings on ‘Miracle Waves’, her voice soaring above a tight, high melody on bass, the crack of that vintage-sounding drum machine, and a second, deeper top-string bassline from Hassan. Frost’s buzzsaw bass takes the place of lead guitar as the track courses along like The Cure in their ‘17 Seconds’ period.
‘Latent Whispers’ is a short burst of darkly danceable bass and synth experimentation that makes a unique contribution to the post-punk canon.
‘Latent Whispers’ is out now via Little Something
Kite Base pictured live at Corsica Studios, 20th June. Picture credit: Ian Bourne