Zaïmph

It’s difficult to have a serious discussion of underground music produced in the United States over the last 20 years without including Marcia Bassett, a musician and multi-media artist who’s wielded an assortment of instruments in unconventional ways in unconventional contexts. Prepared guitar, voice, electronic effects, computer treatments, analog strategies – she fluctuates seamlessly between solo and collaborative work. Equal parts trance and critique, her work threads the needle between the conceptual and the sensual, between ritual invocation and cold semiotic gaze. You need to lose yourself to find yourself, and Marcia Bassett’s music is a potent facilitator.  Bassett deftly wields philosophical systems to produce heady, experiential clouds; pushing through drones into provocative soundscapes – the intangible narratives of dreams. What seems clear one second can become perplexing the next.

After her time in the notorious group Un (with Grant Acker and Fursaxa’s Tara Burke), she co-founded Double Leopards, one of the more blissfully confounding projects of its time; one that pushed the 90’s lo-fi, subversive stylings to abstract even further into psychedelic unpredictability as that century rolled into this one.

Following Double Leopards’ dissolution, Bassett has performed and recorded incantatory solo music under the Zaïmph moniker, in addition to a host of other activities. The projects are many, – Hototogisu (with Skullflower’s Matthew Bower), GHQ (with Steve Gunn and Pete Nolan of Magik Markers), Zaika (with Tom Carter of Charalambides), plus collaborations with Samara Lubelski, Bridget Hayden, Barry Weisblat, Helga Fassonaki, Margarida Garcia and Manuel Mota.

Bassett is also a participant in ensembles that explore improvised sound and graphic scores.  She’s a member of Andrew Lafkas’ large ensemble Alternate Models; the group presented “Two Paths with Active Shadows Under Three Moons and Surveillance,” at Experimental Intermedia and Eyebeam, NYC; she also contributed to Generations Unlimited’s “Gen Ken’s Supergroup” performing at PS1 Solid Gold and Experimental Intermedia.

Rhizomatic Gaze…
Deleuze and Guattari define a rhizome like a map: “The map is open and connectable in all its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on the wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation.” Music too can be many things – refuge, escape, a tool for engagement, a challenge, a pleasure, something to help us zone out, something that grabs us and won’t let go. By some strange alchemy, Marcia Bassett’s work manages to be all of these things at one time or another, often in wild combination.

Rhizomatic Gaze revels in this transcendence of simple constructions, with Bassett acting as a guide – a detective unifying disarranged territories. And so this double LP makes full use of its vastness while retaining such focus that time passes before we’ve had a chance to notice.

Within the expanse of the suite, the tracks still present distinct personalities. “Removing Bits of History” offers a chorus of distended voices clamoring for attention, showcasing Bassett’s remarkable capacity for cocooning cynicism into something fascinating and visceral. “Two in One” is a slowly evolving drone, delicious in its sheer density. When’s the last time you really heard a shape spread like the surface of a body of water? “Shadow of NYC” brings voices and percussive elements into dialogue with a level of natural unease and all the shuttering, stuttering rhythms of a New York subway. “Curtains” swings sonic pendulums atop a confounding and melancholy bed, as fleeting as it is impactful. And that’s not even the half of it.

The record is a weighty addition to Bassett’s catalog, and also to a heavier-than-heavy New York experimental lineage. In form, scope, and detail, it spreads its wings and means it. I’m sure your life is busy, with many blinking, twinkling things competing for your attention, but you are better off if your gaze is just a bit more rhizomatic. So look no further.
– Matt Krefting, 2018