Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dean Peer - Airborne

There's an old bass guitarists' saying that the first three rows of every Primus concert were filled with bass guitar players trying to figure out how Les Claypool managed to play the way he did. Well, I think there must have been at least one time where Les himself was sitting front row at a Dean Peer concert. Dean manages to wring more sounds out of his bass than just about any bass player on the planet, and his new album, Airborne, just about cements his status as the most gifted and innovative guy ever to pluck (or in his case, tap) four thick strings.

I first discovered Dean's music back when I used to read Stereophile. That audio magazine really championed his talent, and I wound up buying his LP Ucross based on their absolutely glowing review. Over the years, Ucross became one of my reference records for testing and evaluating stereo equipment. Since Dean himself is an audiophile, he always takes extra care to ensure his recordings sound fantastic. On Airborne, the sounds of his bass, coupled with some downright huge drumming from Bret Mann, creates some of the most astonishing and expansive soundscapes I've heard in a long time.

While it's hard to categorize Dean's music, I guess I would have to place it in jazz fusion. On the opening track, however, Dean and Bret lay down a momentum that actually rocks in more ways than one. Dean's unique style, which makes it almost impossible to believe that there's only one instrument playing, comes from a double-tap technique that allows him to travel into octaves that are alien to most bass players. Yet Dean eschews tricks and effects and focuses on how much sound he can extract from his instrument. If you're a fellow bassist, you'll be inspired and amazed. If you're not a bassist, you'll still think you're listening to a trio or a quartet instead of a duo.

Again, if you're into sonic pyrotechnics, Airborne will not disappoint. It's the perfect album for discerning what my new Cardas cables and my new Trenner & Friedl ART monitors are capable of achieving. I'm really fortunate that my system can now do justice to this fascinating album.
Incidentally, I received Airborne in a totally new (to me) format--the USB sound card. It's the exact size of a credit card. Just to show how technically challeneged I can be, I started looking around the sides of my laptop for an orifice that would accommodate the card. My brother Mat, the computer genius, pulled out the small insert on the right side of the card to reveal that it's just a garden-variety USB jack. D'oh!

You can get Airborne at your favorite record store, from the Cardas Audio website at or you can visit Dean's website at

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