Refuge For Abandoned Souls by Rothko

Rothko | Refuge For Abandoned Souls
Trace Recordings (LP/CD/DL)

It seems that 20 years ago, back in London, Mark Beazley and Crawford Blair took the name Rothko after Beazley connected with Blair having spotted an ad in Melody Maker. That was all before assembling a bass guitar band trio, that would go on to consider the aural contextuality of the paintings of the visual artist of the same name. These days Beazley practically is the sole member of the band, although he sometimes gets live support from Blair, Johny Brown, Inga Tillere, Graham Dowdall (aka Gagarin), Sukie Smith and James Stephen Finn. 

Still, one thing certainly remains the same, over quite a number of albums, including Refuge For Abandoned Souls, Rothko’s latest, the music remains the closest audio approximation of Rothko’s, the painter’s, art. If those not so familiar with Beazley’s work or the earlier three bass men incarnation of Rothko, think that they would be bored to death with a repetitive, pulsating, beat-oriented sound, they would certainly be off the mark.

Yes, again, it is just Beazley with his bass and embellishing synthesizer, but the sounds he is able to conjure and create, rarely hit a beat on this album. So what is Rothko out to create this time? Anybody who heard his previous outing Blood Demands More Blood might expect something very bleak and very uptight. But in something that is becoming a personal tradition, Beasley, shifts in some respects, and remains the same in others.

Nothing ferocious this time around. Instead, a lot of echoing, ever-expanding spaces, akin to an ambient soundtrack to something that would fall under the ‘experimental Western’ category. Beazley is able to extract such sounds out of his instruments that you can certainly recognise it as a bass guitar, but as a solo instrument that can stand on its own and create music, with the synth only in a support role, that is at the same time beautiful (“Place Your Soul Next To Mine”) and scary (“The Day After Your Death”).

Throughout, Rothko at the same time evokes the bleak feeling of modern times (one thing that remains), and at the same time melancholy that can be equally interpreted as hope and despair. Just like the quiet path through the forest depicted on the cover, but with those red and white marks on trees that can look like targets. So that experimental Western can certainly fall into two other categories – romantic and ghostly. Of course, also at the same time. I bet Beazley wouldn’t have it any other way.

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