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Notes from the underground

They’re a little bit underground and they ride on a subterranean sound and, like the above-ground cactus flower that blooms in a cosmic cycle, bass-guitar-driven band Subset BC’s live shows are rare but intoxicating.

Self-described as New Zealand’s premier deep-groove cinematic bass ensemble, the Gisborne four-piece is preparing to bring its unique hybrid dark and groovy drum and bass riffs, head music and danceable instrumentals counterpointed with psychedelic digital visuals out of their back-street rehearsal studio and into the Dome.

“Our intention was to play three or four times a year,” says bass player and digital effects designer Ryan Raggett.

“We’ve been practising every week and writing songs. We record everything and have been writing profusely.”

Subset last performed live in the conceptual sound experiment Noise Vacancy, a site-specific, sonic trail of 20 installations in a vacant building in a forgotten pocket of town.

Various noise artists included the spoken word and pre-recorded content in their performances, says Raggett.

“We had a lot of pre-recorded material from our archives and we have a big visual component. We called it Echoes of Creation which spoke about what we’d done in the past and echo into the future.”

Projected psychedelia/trippy visuals are integral to the band’s performances. Subset’s 2019 winter solstice experiment was a collaboration between Hamilton illustrator and street artist Pauly B. In a unique audio-visual encounter under the Dome, Pauly B used a lightbox and camera set-up that projected textures and backgrounds the artist created with oils, inks, fabrics and paper. The screened artwork is a spontaneous, fluid response to the music.

Designs Raggett has previously used include smart psychedelic digital imagery from open source sites.

“I design graphics using AI technology and source complex algorithms with a group of other computer enthusiasts. The visuals are all created specifically for our gigs. It’s about creating something different, artistically.”

Originally called Subset BC, the band evolved from jam sessions that began with nine bass players.

“We didn’t know what sound we’d create with all these basses thrown together. A lot of our songs we try to get a throb in there that resonates well with the dance crew.”

Raggett has been particularly busy with music lately. He plays bass with Lazy Fifty and is writing with support act, The Night Moves.

“The Night Moves is a newly-formed six-piece that has been described as ‘bittersweet melodies from the mysterious cocktail noir genre. Equal measures of rhythmic dexterity and top-shelf Love Boat intrigue, every song is a new episode’.”

The Night Moves will open the evening of genre-bending, live music at the Dome.

With influences that include funk, desert-sludge, post-rock, shoe-gaze, house and drum and bass, Subset’s focus is original music but their set includes a smattering of covers such as the band’s take on Massive Attack’s beat-driven Karmacoma.

“We have about 20 originals and three covers,” says Raggett.

“The covers don’t sound like the originals. They have morphed into Subset’s way of life.”

Subset — the cinematic bass ensemble returns plus debut support act The Night Moves and DJ Missing Link. The Dome, Saturday April 10, 8pm, $10 cash at the door.

Subset — the cinematic bass ensemble returns plus debut support act The Night Moves and DJ Missing Link. The Dome, Saturday April 10, 8pm, $10 cash at the door.