Yet another left turn for bassist John Eckhardt, The wicked Path once again teaches us to drop our prior expectations. We never expected to encounter a drum ‘n’ (real) bass album from the artist, although it makes perfect sense. Recording as Fatwires, he’s given us an album steeped in dub and awash in club sensibilities. Opening track “Tools that we’ll be swinging” is deep and nuanced, with field recordings revealed as texture whenever the beats retreat. One can picture this track nestled deep in a jungle set from the 80s ~ especially when the throbbing chords enter.
Eckhardt’s raison d’être is to investigate “bass, space and time,” which was also the title of his last album. That record arrived in a box along with individually-selected covers; Forests was a USB drive embedded in a small log. Unfortunately, there’s no physical release this time, but there are a few videos to sweeten the pot. The slow, lurking “Strings of Dread” gets an abstract rendition that upon further inspection appears to be macro images of the strings. The mesmerizing “Equinox” is pure kaleidoscope, whirling and pausing, toying with expectations of rapidity. In these visuals, Eckhardt’s love of greenery shines through; the effect is nearly shamanistic. “Getting high on your own product” is an odd title in that the saying is “getting high on your own supply,” but then again, we think wicked should be capitalized and “Yours is a dusty” needs another noun: a total disregard for rules. The video leaves the forest behind to concentrate on the architecture of tall glass buildings, through which nature becomes only a reflection. Toward the very end, the camera zooms even closer, as if to capture the green mirror, ignoring the fact that by moving closer it is simultaneously moving further away. “Canbium” is the most interesting of the videos in that the macro photography is forever moving in and out of focus ~ sort of like Fatwires’ music, where the drums are sharp but the bass blurs at the edges. Only at the end is the image static.
“Boreal Riddim” is the purest club track, building as it progresses, each movement busier than the one before. We’d be hard-pressed to identify this as the work of the same artist whose first release brought us two hours of textured drone. Of the nine selections here, only “Foundation Haze” fits that profile. In expanding our appreciation of the solo bassist, Eckhardt imitates what depth of field music calls “a wondrous, branching bass forest.” By taking the wicked Path, the artist has become what he loves: life imitating art imitating life. (Richard Allen)