For a long time I personally had no idea this album existed; perhaps not surprising given the lack of a central archive cataloguing the ups and downs of the Bangkok scene as it morphs through space and time. My understanding of Basement Tape was limited to their EP and their second album, appropriately entitled ‘Two’, and released in 2014 on Colorcode Records. Discovering this album in the happening shop two years ago and listening to it heavily gave me a clearer idea and appreciation of what these guys were doing, which is important when the music they’re making isn’t really quite like the various genres embraced by the scene around them.
This time the musicians are largely the same. Lance Thomas has left (although traces of his bass remain on ‘Lookout Friday’), and Wannarit “Pok” Pongprayoon has moved to bass (along with keyboards), while June Kalambaheti remains on drums, with Ben Edwards and Tat Bunnag as twin lead singer/guitarists. The overall album sound is clean and bright, a sunny-sounding opus that moves confidently and effortlessly through different nostalgic rock genres, often within the confines of the same song. There’s something here for everyone; vocal harmonies, reverb-drenched riffs and lead breaks, delicate acoustic interludes, retro organ solos, break-out harmonica madness and amusing found-object tape loops.
Standout tracks that I can listen to again and again include:
- “Down” – First song on the album whose upbeat sounds and swing-laden drums are completely at odds with Ben’s lyrics which appear to describe being taken down by The Man.
- “New Trip” – Tat’s ode to the joys of travelling unfolds against a backdrop of tight bass-laden rhythms and crackling lead guitar. Recommended!
- “Circles” – A fantastic piece of music, this song describes the late night odyssey to home, familiar to anyone trekking through Bangkok’s puddle-strewn streets in search of refuge.
- “Sunday Driving” – This forms the middle section of Basement Tape’s loose traffic trilogy, along with “Girl on a Motorcycle” from their previous EP and “Gridlock” from their second album. Ben sings: “Sunday morning, orange sunshine, coffee and wine, had to much to drink, last night, but I feel alright, show me the sights…” Indeed!
- “You’ll Be Fine” – A fantastic slice of urban country, Tat’s smooth vocals carry this one through finger-picking iterations and organ solos.
- “Grace’s Garden” – It may start off as a demo, but this gets my vote for best song on the album, and one of the band’s best songs ever. Mellow acoustic guitar and bird noises mesh seamlessly with Tat’s wistful vocals: “Don’t hate me because things are falling…”
Finding a legitimate download of this album online is difficult, but it’s worth either contacting the band directly to see if they have any copies for sale, or checking out the many indie CD shops in Bangkok also.
colours shine, city lights.
Water drops through the trees,
Wash the dust from the leaves.”
- Basement Tape, “Circles”, 2010.