Some Reviews

REVIEWS OF THE LAST FRET

“Wendy Atkinson = Jandek + Kim Deal – Geddy Lee
Female bass players aren’t uncommon, but there are few with the experimental approach of Canadian musician Wendy Atkinson. On this, her third bass album, she also makes use of ebow, toy piano, field recordings and prepared bass. Although several numbers, like “Hebron Birds,” tell spoken-word stories to instrumental backing, she is also joined by David Lester (of artsy punk pop band Mecca Normal). She also played in Vancouver with eccentric cult musician Jandek. The Last Fret is a fascinating insight into the expressive possibilities of an instrument often assumed to only serve the function of rhythmic/harmonic backing. –Stakerized! – SLUG Magazine

***

“Vancouver’s Wendy Atkinson has always had an exploratory approach to music. Her first albums, Trim and Pink Noise, were dense experimentations with bass guitar, both acoustic and electric. She then began collaborating with Mecca Normal’s David Lester, which pushed her in even stranger directions. Atkinson’s third album, The Last Fret, isn’t so much rooted in traditional bass guitar anymore, but is wildly experimental, playing around with deep drones, electronics and even spoken word pieces. The third piece is an intriguing cover of Chain and the Gang‘s “What is a Dollar?” transformed into an art piece reminiscent of Lydia Lunch. Of the instrumental pieces “Off the Edge” is the most interesting, a short, menacing electric bass-guitar dominated piece. Atkinson is an artist clearly pushing herself as a performer and this album is a clear step in a new direction for her.” Steve Marlow,  Earshot

***

“Electric and acoustic bassist Wendy Atkinson bills her third solo effort as another “experimental” undertaking, and so it is: if you’ve heard the bass sound like this before, you’ve probably got rather left-field tastes. And yet Atkinson is an exceptionally friendly experimentalist, certainly not one to be afraid of. Atkinson has a gift for establishing a sense of place with fairly minimal means. It’s light-hearted, charming, and brief: words that, save for a few darker passages, could easily describe most of The Last Fret’s 37 minutes.” Alex Varty, Georgia Straight

***

“It’s been said that what one considers to be “good” music is music that speaks to one’s set of biases drawn from one’s personal history and relationship with music and aesthetics, all of which shapes a response to – and an evaluation of – a specific work. The world of ‘new’ or ‘experimental’ music can be challenging – not only for composers and musicians, but also for the listener who must work towards actually hearing and not just listening to the music. There is much that tweaks and speaks to my particular set of biases when contemplating this third release by the multifaceted bassist/composer, Wendy Atkinson.

A skilled infusion of field recordings, found sound and spoken-word, together with electronic bow and toy piano experimentation, gives layered texture to her work. This instinctive artist appears to have delved deeply into the self to mine components for her unique collages of ambient soundscapes.

I look forward to the next project envisioned by the accomplished Ms. Atkinson. Highly recommended.”  – Bob Turner, Common Ground

***

“Her approach is even a thousand miles, favoring the intimate and minimalism, full of silences and innuendo. And experimentation to thereby open the field of possibilities around bass sounds that are never vindictive and mixed with natural sounds or bitterness squeaks.” [Google’s slightly tortured translation from the original French] Perte et Fracas

***

“Clever use of sound makes this release attention-grabbing” – The Terrascope (UK)

***

“Wendy Atkinson is a solo bass-player and composer who displays a compelling sonic and lyrical adventurousness on The Last Fret, her third album. She plays ebow, toy piano, electric, acoustic and double basses here, and also uses field recordings, while David Lester of avant-punks Mecca Normal plays guitar on three tracks (Atkinson and Lester recorded an acclaimed album as the duo Horde of Two in 2009). The material here ranges through ambient and poppy instrumentals to spoken word, as on the gripping “Hebron Birds”. A record worthy of fretting about”  – New Canadian Musician

***

“Her music covers a range of sonic landscapes” – BC Musician Magazine

***

The Last Fret is a heavily conceptual album, minimalist and, at times, aleatoric. Combining standard and extended techniques for both electric and upright bass, Wendy Atkinson has created an atmospheric, almost meditative album. This is a very low-key album that creates a convincing aural space for the listener to exist in for a little while. I enjoyed it. ”   Sequential Tart

***

“You know that Canadian musician Wendy Atkinson might be something of a cult figure when you find out she has performed with reclusive legendary cult figure Jandek. More than that, her third album of bass work, The Last Fret, features David Lester of Mecca Normal on guitar on a smattering of tracks. If you know anything about Mecca Normal, well, they have a long standing cult following. Atkinson, then, is surrounded by the obscure, and one might feel that this record is a little on that side. Basically, this album is mostly an instrumental one featuring the bass work of Atkinson on the very low end. And I mean very low end. Most of these songs are more textures and hums than anything you can hum along to. There’s a sense of portending dread on many of these tracks, especially on her cover of “I Need a Dollar” by Chain and the Gang.

Essentially, this is music for the night time, for feeling a particular mood right before you get into your pajamas and want to hear the sound envelop you in the blackness. The Last Fret takes you to a place that only few dare visit: the lower registers of a bass guitar.”Zachary Houle, Invisible Ink Music Blog / ex-PopMatters Music Editor (Toronto)

***

“The bass guitar plays a series of pictures. One can easily drown in imagination. Strange, ambient, atmospheric and pretty.” – CiTR (Vancouver, BC)

***

“CD of the Week. The Last Fret is Atkinson’s continued exploration of the possibilities of the bass. None of the 15 tracks is long, brief discoveries of sound with visions supplied by the colours of the bass guitar.”  – The Province

***

“What Wendy Atkinson does with a double bass, spoken word vocals, field recordings…and an ebow and toy piano is create a lovely sound collage. David Lester of Mecca Normal adds guitar on a few songs. There is an honesty and freshness to this music that is well worth a focused listen.” – KFJC FM (Los Altos Hill, CA)

***

“Bass experimentalist since the ’80s, Wendy Atkinson covers a fairly wide territory on her new record. There is bass experimentation from prepared bass, e-bowed bass, bowed electric, looping, besides the more-standardized playing methods. To this she adds field recordings, toy piano, spoken word, some guest guitar work from Mecca Normal’s David Lester, some pop elements, and some art rap…..Her voice is reminiscent of Kim Gordon and Laurie Anderson….It’s like a collection of short stories, usually pretty meditative, that seem to request a visual accompaniment.”  Innocent Words

***

“The Last Fret is not so much an album as it is a sonic art installation dedicated to memory. That makes it more concerned with evoking particular moods than trying to fit into conventional songwriting structures. Wendy Atkinson’s relatively short sketches achieve her targeted effect by exploring feelings of introspection, loss, and hope. She cloaks her bass with pensive ambient washes, electronic textures, and field recordings, occasionally expanding the tracks with other instruments or spoken word segments.

The brevity of pieces often leave you wanting more, or perhaps a more detailed evolution, but her impressionistic, “less is more” approach leaves room for interpretation on subsequent visits. Her songs never overstay their welcome in part because she doesn’t place too much weight on delicate structure of her material, The Last Fret is a thoughtful collection worthy of a relaxed afternoon or evening visit.” Jester Jay’s Music and Other Essential Thoughts

***

SOME REVIEWS OF PINK NOISE

“Atkinson filters superbly into her craft an ear for mood manipulation and the beautifully bleak while simultaneously managing to inject a sense of restrained playfulness.” – Losing Today (Rome, Italy)

“Wendy Atkinson on her second album Pink Noise creates a marvelous album, simultaneously dark and energetic, a spiking of a deep red punch.”  Ned Raggett, All Music Guide, 4 out of 5 stars

“Pink Noise is just as much about atmosphere as it is about clamour.…At times Pink Noise achieves sparse settings…other times, this album taps into playful moments that bounce and writhe with a dark sensuality. ….Atkinson somehow creates worlds within these short spans that are hauntingly taut and frayed at every conceivable edge.” – Liz Worth, Exclaim Magazine (Toronto, ON)

“Pink Noise draws from a healthy palette: ambient machine machinations, acoustic and double-bass moseys, family BBQ anecdotes and megaphone-like drones. The first is the most interesting as what sounds like field recordings of everyday machines form organic arcs; wholesome narratives that speak of the digital, mechanical world around us….the electronic buzz and hums are yummy.” – Senator Spencer, Slug Magazine (Salt Lake City, UT)

“PiNK NOiSE places Atkinson in the same territory as previous musical explorers such as Brian Eno or Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.” – Jeff Friesen, Earshot (Toronto, ON)

“Elements combine into an aural version of people watching…when each track ends, you feel as if you’ve come up from a meditation.” –  Girlistic Magazine (Santa Maria, CA)

“Wonderfully varied solo bass album. Like her last record, this is all about the bass. Those interested in bass would be doing themselves a favour by checking Wendy Atkinson out. She has a lot of good ideas about what to do with basses. I feel like I’ll wreck the surprise if I say anymore.” – Matt Collins, Broken Pencil Magazine (Canada)

SOME REVEWS OF TRIM

“At times playful, mostly mournful but always moody, Atkinson’s bass songs are strange, [and] pretty…” — Punk Planet (USA)

“Atkinson has done with bass what Eno did with synthesizers in his early experiments with Ambient music.” — Terminal City (Vancouver)

” Her melodies are quite song-like and remind me of the stark, simple constructions favored by post-punks like the Mekons, the Young Marble Giants and the Raincoats twenty-odd years ago.” — Signal to Noise (USA)

“Fans of Tortoise and Pell Mell will dig this.” — Jon Snyder, Out There Monthly (Spokane, WA)

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