I’ve been following the progress of John Bassett for a while now, first through a couple of releases from his Hastings-based band King Bathmat, then there was a solo album and now a third album from Arcade Messiah. What is always guaranteed is John puts his heart and soul into his psychedelically stoner post rock creations, which are essentially born of dreams and imagination.
This mostly instrumental album hits the groove from the off with the crunchy “Revolver”. To go with the crusty stoner sound, there’s an interesting guitar ring, which has a little bit of Opeth about it, and melodies which expand what is already a colourful journey. “Revolver” is one to absorb and chill out to. It does not seek to overpower us with heaviness, not that it is light, but delights with its patterns and movement. Knowing that John doesn’t like to stand still, I expected the next song to step up the excitement but in fact we are taken into darker territory. Without the encumbrance of lyrics or the need for them, John paints a grey scene but one which is powerful and instrumentally vivid and rich. Further pictures are painted in the dramatic and lengthy “Deliverance”. What I like about this and John’s work as a whole is the way he shares his visions. This expressive track expands in a progressive way, expanding its soundscape and building up the excitement. The progressive march starts again with the aptly titled “Life Clock”. The concept is relatively simple but someone has to think of it, and John has. This is like an instrumental tribute to life’s passage. There is a constancy and sadness, but also depth as the picture changes to something more urgent and dark. We then return to the crusty world of stoner. Synthetic voices distantly accompany the deep sounds of “Black Tree”. One thing that’s missing compared to previous John Bassett works is the quirkiness. Here and on “Deliverance” there are brief concessions to the use of programmed sounds, which for me were unnecessary, but this is more than compensated by the core sound and structures, which develop in imaginative and evocative ways. This sums up “Sanctuary”, which brings the album to a close on a sad and dreamy note.
“Arcade Messiah III” is a highly expressive album and testimony to John Bassett’s musical talent and imagination.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)