[1 April 2009]
Separately, Vancouver B.C. residents Wendy Atkinson and David Lester are skilled, accomplished musicians. Atkinson has delivered two solo bass records, while Lester plays guitar for local indie mainstays Mecca Normal. Collectively, the pair has combined to record the aptly-titled Guitar & Bass Actions, an entirely instrumental album that sets them up as an antithesis to the White Stripes (perhaps piano and bass, not guitar and bass equal the opposite of Jack and Meg; in any case, Horde of Two does the piano/bass thing as well, on “Conversation in a Berlin Train Station”).
Apparently, the project’s genesis came when Atkinson and Lester were inspired to play and record music that reflected what they saw while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail. As such, there are a few foreboding tunes on the album (“Evil”, “Blackmail” and “The Knife”—named because Lester uses a knife on his guitar). Overall, however, Guitar & Bass Actions is not all suspense and mayhem; the pair dabble in atmospheric, almost cinematic soundscapes (the aforementioned “Conversation…”), melodic, create quality lo-fi pop (“Stockholm”) and riff on ‘90s alterna-rock structures (“Wander on the Dark” and “Galiano Island”). The lack of drums and vocals is never really distracting; one gets the sense that these songs could be fleshed out but that Atkinson and Lester have chosen to focus on instrumental purity and distill the tracks to what would have been their finest parts anyway. At just over 52 minutes, the record could get a bit cumbersome for those not predisposed to enjoying instrumental rock, but each track is creative and pleasant enough to keep the listener engaged.