London-based Ralph Cumbers is behind the Bass Clef moniker; an up-and-coming, unorthodox, trombone-wielding bass insurgent whose storming live sets have begun redefining dubstep
not only at local clubs in Bristol, but across Europe. Bass Clef’s debut long-player A Smile is a Curve that Straightens Most Things
(Blank Tape, 2006) drew comparisons with AFX Twin for its electronica touches. Cumbers has also released music as RLF
. Ralph Cumbers straddles the London centres that spawn heavy, sparse, bass-studies after living, playing and recording in both Bristol and East London.
In Bristol for ten years, he was well known in the local scene earlier in the decade for putting out dub and IDM inflected breaks under the moniker RLF, already incorporating his trademark trombone into live sets. As RLF, Cumbers had a few tracks included on local Bristol labels Hombré and Sink & Stove before putting out two ten inches for the now defunct XL Recordings (Rex Records subsidiary); one in 2002, Once Upon A Time EP
; and the next in 2003, Blow Your Mind And Your Speakers Will Follow
. As RLF, Cumbers supported the likes of The Bug, Andrea Parker, mum, Luke Vibert and Andy Votel, and also ventured into live film soundtracking. In 2004 he presented: RLF vs GODZILLA
- A Live Electronix and Trombone Re-Soundtrack of Godzilla Vs. Hedora/Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971).
The Bass Clef moniker first appeared with the Hackney Centralist
EP (Blank Tapes 2006), and reflected Cumbers’ move from Bristol to East London. The EP includes the track Clapton Deep
which was particularly well received: a wonky, lurching sound with video-game bass and lots of reverb and echo through old and grimy FX pedals. He’s released four EPs to date, and debuted his album, A Smile is a Curve that Straightens Most Things
in 2006 on Blank Tapes. The full-length was produced in Cumbers’ tiny Echo Chamber studio in Hackney, using an old cassette four-track, a drum machine, a sampler, a vintage synth and valve compressor. Cumbers’ toured extensively in 2008, playing powerful sets with a mixing desk, trombone, cowbells and theremin that brought down the house.
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