Virculum: Songs for Insomniacs

Originally from Sydney, Australia and now ensconced in Manhattan doing bass duty for the likes of Dave Liebman and Cecil Bridgewater, Mark Lau assumes a less jazz-oriented persona in this splendid Virculum outing. Songs for Insomniacs situates Lau's proficient acoustic and bowed bass playing within meditative settings assembled from shimmering electronic textures, tinkling, gamelan-styled percussion, and occasional injections of guitar and found sounds. It's certainly an original conception, and juxtaposing the emotive warmth of the acoustic bass sound and the cooler timbres of the electronic accompaniment creates effective contrast. Lau sometimes overdubs bowed bass and plucked bass to stirring effect: “I See a Man Who Stares Upwards...” alternates a bowed cry with the plucked bass against a blurry background, while the acoustic bass showcase “What Wondrous Love is This” layers an emotive lead over a plucked ostinato. Consistent with the album title, the material is far from abrasive yet it's not ambient either; generally restrained and melancholic, Songs for Insomniacs inhabits a calming zone betwixt sleep and waking.

January 2007