Review Summary: Indulgence distorts what could have, potentially, been an interesting idea.
When you think of a virtuoso bass player, who’s the first person that comes to your mind" Bootsy Collins" Billy Sheehan" Victor Wooten" Yeah, someone along those lines brings a sentiment many will share in the bass playing community. And with no end to these players abilities, you can see why some of them release instrumental solo records; a way of showcasing their chops, musical knowledge and maybe even pushing the instrument into uncharted territories. So, with that said, I can tell you, the last album I expected to see this year was an instrumental solo album – which centres itself almost entirely around the bass – from Korn’s Fieldy.
Before I start dissecting the meat and potato of this thing, it’s worth pointing out, this isn’t actually Fieldy’s first stab at a solo LP. Back at the turn of the millennium, Fieldy dropped the exceptionally awful Rock’n Roll Gangster
under the name “Fieldy’s Dreams”, an album which, by his words, was meant to show his fervent love for hip-hop music. Featuring a brace of guest artists, Rock’n Roll Gangster
was a far cry from Korn’s down-tuned head banger tunes – and while not my cup of tea, exposed a new level of diversity for any Korn fan unaware of the band’s core influences. The well thought-out and cleverly titled Bassically
, is a further departure from his last album; moving away from being just a hip-hop record, this instrumental album attempts to fire a lot of other influences at its listener. There’s clearly a lot of love for the way artists like Flea, Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten play, and you’ll hear quite a variation on the way Fieldy uses his slap technique, among a host of melodic licks to try and keep you engaged. And I’ll be honest in saying, there is a few cool moments to be had inside the odd track here and there: the opening song “Bass O Rama” has an undeniable heaviness and groove to it; the 70s vibe on “5 String Graffiti” is one of the strongest highlights here, it feels weighty and puts the bass effects he has to good use; “Step Right Up” brings some decent hooks to the table; and closing track “Bass Age” brings a dirty hip-hop groove and adds a few layers of synths and so forth to bring depth and texture to the song, making it another highlight here.
Having said that, I’ve always thought you have to be a very special artist to make an instrumental record that will actually keep you interested, and I really don’t think Fieldy has the ability – nor the knowledge – to do that. Bassically
misses the mark more times than it hits, the first glaring problem is the god-awful production: I can’t for the life of me tell you just how bad this album sounds, it’s something you’ll have to experience to fully understand the gravity of just how airy, tinny and empty it feels throughout most of its duration; drums sound like crap and even if this is a bass themed record, the abundance of bass tracks layered over each other make the songs feel like something big is missing. It doesn’t help that he saturates the melodic basslines in reverb, making songs sound furtherly vacant. Worse still, any of the effects he uses on this album don’t particularly bring anything exciting to the table. Similarly, he doesn’t have the prowess to make a lot of his licks have any staying power; his staccato lead lines most of the time sound clunky and jarring, while his usual “click-a-ty-click” technique layered underneath everything makes some of the songs sound messy. Further problems surface when you get to the samples and – best for last – the terrible Johnathan Davis, human-beatbox, track “JD Fresh”, which makes songs sound goofy and a right-off the moment they begin. But the most obvious problem is that, at 45 minutes and 17 tracks, it overstays its welcome pretty quickly; if the album had a third cut off it, it could have helped Bassically
be a lot more cohesive and to the point.
The question that lingers in my mind isn’t whether it’s a bad record, but more on who it’s actually aimed at" This isn’t a metal album, so unless you have a diverse taste in music, I can’t see this appealing to Korn fans – unless you’re the type of person who’ll lap up anything from the artists in the band. So that leaves fans of instrumental music and bass players who enjoy hearing other bass players let rip. And to be quite honest, I’m not entirely convinced it’ll appeal to those people either. There’s some cool cuts on here, sure, and Fieldy certainly has skill in his playing – but let’s be honest in saying, he wouldn’t cut it next to someone of Les Claypool or Jeff Berlin’s stature. Bassically, what I’m saying is his playing isn’t good enough to be heard for 17 tracks and 45 minutes of run-time. There’s some solid ideas at the heart of this thing, it’s just overindulged too much, and I can’t see bass nerds getting a lot from this, nor do I think instrumental fans will find much joy either.
SPECIAL EDITION: This project was a pledge campaign, and various packages were offered to supporters who funded the album; such as signed basses, posters, CDs and T-shirts.