Friday, May 20, 2011

Laudanum, Brainoil, and Asunder. Greg Wilkinson and Salvador Raya's Unique Contributions.

Laudanum has recently switched bass players. Now this may seem inconsequential to many who worship at the altar of metal guitar and have not developed an appreciation for the artistry of bass guitar. For those who feel this way I encourage you to reconsider this perspective and listen more intently to the intricate nuances and unique contributions of Laudanum's previous and current bass players; Greg Wilkinson and Salvador Raya.

First before I start contrasting Greg and Sal's approach to the instrument it should be known that they both have long musical resumes and are both partners in the recording studio, Earhammer Studios, where Embers has recorded all of our music. In fact Laudanum has also recorded at Earhammer with Greg as the bass player and Sal as the engineer. Because of this both Greg and Sal have been intricately involved in Laudanum for quite some time.

Greg Wilkinson

Greg Wilkinson has been in to many bands for me to name. Actually I admit that he has probably been in more bands than I am aware. Recently he has played in at least four projects simultaneously which include Laudanum, Brainoil, and Lidtoker. Perhaps because of his hectic schedule he left Laudanum last year.

Greg has a very particular style. His bass tone is huge and abrasive. His technique is aggressive bordering on violent. The sound he produces resembles the growl of big truck with someone revving the engine. 

He plays melodically. Rather than playing the root notes of chords Greg will play tones in between the chord changes often producing musical lines that could stand alone and imprint itself on ones mind. Often after seeing Greg perform in his band Brainoil I will leave the concert with his bass melodies rattling around in my brain for an hour or so.

Rhythmically Greg plays on the beat. This approach makes the music surge and roll aggressively. This produces a frenetic energy beyond the tempo that encourages one to head bang and fist pump with a great deal of force and vigor.

Laudanum are currently the best doom outfit in Oakland hands down. Greg's contribution to the music gave Laudanum a hard, sludgey feel which showcased the drummer, Becky Hawk's cyclical pattern and the bands experimentation with alternate time and time manipulation.

Here's Laudanum with Greg:
Currently Greg is focusing on his band Brainoil. Listening to Brainoil really helps to get an idea of Greg's background, and how it affects the mood and feel of
Laudanum. Check it out:

Salvador Raya

Salvador Raya comes from a similar background as Greg. He has played in many bands in the Bay Area including Asunder, Elk, and Insidious. Like Greg these bands have been dark, heavy, doomy outfits. Despite these similarities Sal has a different approach than Greg.

Sal's bass tone is blownout and huge. It is so huge that it becomes all encompassing. Because of this Sal has developed a minimalist approach where the listener feels more than hears the shifting tonalities as they slowly surge through the room, through the floor, and into one's feet in order to vibrate one's core. This is music for the deaf!

Because of this minimalist approach Sal deals more with nuance than intricacies. Since he plays fewer notes he carefully chooses the timing of each note. He plays slightly behind the beat to create a slow surging feeling. This surge is not the frenetic kind that Greg produces, but rather the slow surge of being on a boat at sea. The headbanging and fist pumping are in slow motion and the weight of the music sits on your chest forcing one to breath with intention.

This style works well with Laudanum. Becky's drumming is no longer showcased because nothing is showcased anymore. The songs are a whole, and each element blends into a dark doom ridden atmosphere. There are no musicians anymore; just the shifting tones of a sonic environment.

Here is Laudanum with Sal:

Listening to Sal play in Laudanum reminds me of his previous band Asunder which took doom to an entirely new level. Asunder would often play one song as their entire set...and still run over time. Here is a clip of Asunder which will give you an idea where Sal is coming from:

In the end both incarnations of Laudanum are amazing. Both Greg and Sal are amazing bassplayers and I highly recommend checking out every band mentioned in this post as well as any other projects they are in because they are all some of the best doom and sludge bands you will likely hear anywhere.

Here is a clip of Laudanum with Greg where he doesn't really play. This clip helps to contrast the other video's to help better understand how amazing Becky and Judd Hawk are as a musical team. To be honest I just included it because it's cool:

Currently Laudanum is working on new material and have no upcoming shows. When they play again they will likely be showcasing new material so don't miss it.


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