1992: Ah...Bas Noir

Thursday, July 10, 2014

House has come back in a big way these last two years or so. I know, because I feel I type and say that sentence a lot. Still it's true. Acts like Disclosure, Moko, and Kiesza have revived one of the 1990s biggest music movements and in turn they've either woven in UK Garage or just some good ol' R&B into the pulse and pounce of the genre's sleek repetitiveness, thus mutating the sound for a whole new generation. Not to yankee doodle all over the place, but the US has been in the house game a long time as well, and the red, white, and blue fruits of our labor blossomed all over the '90s that it's difficult to even name all the players involved. Bas Noir is an act that bloomed during this period but, unfortunately, got lost in the sauce of bigger acts, and when interest in house and club music waned in the middle of the decade, they ceased to exist. Cue the teardrops and the sad violins. Yet, in their brief moment in the sun, they issued out what to me is possibly one of the best house albums you'll ever hear.

Hailing from Philly and New Jersey, Bas Noir (which is French for "black stockings"....meow) is comprised of singers Mary Ridley and Morie Bivens (whose brother is none other than Michael Bivens of New Edition and Bel Biv Devoe fame). In the late '80s they teamed up with the Burrell Brothers (known for house hit, "I Really Like") whom produced their first minor hit 1989's "My Love Is Magic". Single "I'm Glad You Came To Me" followed, but it too didn't emerge from the underground club scene. The more radio-friendly New Jack swing thang, "Superficial Love" followed and it had slightly better success as it landed a spot in the top 20 dance charts in 1991. The latter two songs were then culled and placed onto their one and only album, 1992's Ah...Bas Noir. Sadly, these ladies just could not catch a damn break as nothing latched after that, as later singles, "Shoe-B-Doo" and "Addicted 2 Luv" also found themselves cursed to bounce upon the walls of the underground clubs.

Still folks missed out, as Ah...Bas Noir is a wonderful melange of all that was house, New Jack, and jazz in the beginnings of the 1990s. While the catchy hook-laden "Superficial Love" (as seen above) is the more mainstream cut here, the rest of the album is deep house nirvana. I figure that aspect had something to do with its poor reception (that and some real crappy management and promotion...) because radio can be a judgmental grandma for most of the time, and a bulk of songs present evoked so much edge that radio and mainstream audiences were bound to turn its nose up on what these dames busted out with. Some songs sneer and strut like Naomi Campbell down a runway ("Shoe-B-Doo", "Get U Back") others are slow burning trance ballads ("Out In The Rain", "We'll Find Love") that have mystery behind them. It's not a light album, it's not a perfect album (some songs do go on for too long), but it's still hella loads of fun to dive into and wail along with (and yes, these ladies can blow). I've personally got a lot of favorites here ("Addicted 2 Luv" and the bassline trap, "If I" are tuuuuunees and a half) and they fit right in with all the Crystal Waters and Soul II Soul that I covet.

Favoritism aside, Ah...Bas Noir is a gem that glinted with such promise, but alas became a part of a dying breed, as by the mid-90s house music output declined, especially when hip-hop successfully plowed into the prairie and took on all novelty genres in its wake. Still in the bittersweet end Ah...Bas Noir is crowned by me as being an album that was miles ahead of its time. Go on SoundCloud and you can hear shades of this album in tenfold, hell, twentyfold, but really, curiosity brings enlightenment, as I'd recommend going to the source of these re-imaginings and hear just how far we've come and how we continue to move with the groove.

[Side note: Ah...Bas Noir is "technically" out of print, but hark! blogging compadre Isle Of Failed Pop Stars has solved that problem so no excuses about skipping this album should come from your end *wink*]

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