As Steve Goodman has done with Hyperdub, or Martin Clark with Keysound, Oli Marlow is the latest in the line of influential journalists to bridge the gap between the blogosphere and record industry with his continually evolving and always on point website-cum-record label, Sonic Router.
Having released ‘Yard Sale’ by Dutch soundsmith Torus and the self-titled debut LP from shadowy producer ‘Hav Lyfe’ this year, Sonic Router continue their dabblings in modern, hip-hop leaning production with Leeds-based Bambooman’s mammoth 9-track ‘Hollowed’ EP. The release is a slice of beats-influenced, slow-jam bass music, replete with shed loads of found sound, natural reverberation, vocal snippets and a wide, but cogent, palette of sounds and noises.
The arrangements throughout are abstract and almost freeform, giving the EP a sense of identity and solidarity. It’s also seemingly free from genre expectations; it doesn’t rely on drops or sign posts and it certainly isn’t a head nodder in any traditional sense of hip-hop understanding; instead the tracks seem to amble along in a fug of natural ambience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the self-contained world they invoke.
Signifiers are definitely present however; ‘Frosted’ clearly aligns itself with the UK bass music zeitgeist, with Preditah-style “oohhs” combined with lumbering, grime-edged synth work. ‘Skip’, with its house-inspired kick drum patterns, 808 percussive basslines and side-chained harmonic figures and phrases bring to mind Machinedrum and Sepalcure.
Bambooman conjures up a Warp-tinged sound of 90s techno on ‘Stacks’ and also ‘Sun’ – a shimmering, heat haze of a jam, with dual arpeggios playing against each other over the sound of children at play. The latter also gets a remix from South London duo Eckoclick, coming up trumps as the standout track on the release; a digitised, predominantly 4×4 kick drum pattern, layered under warm syncopated sub bass, honey-dunked soul vocals and funky, colourful melodies. The Warp-esque fugues that pepper the original are slowed down and morphed almost out of recognition, employed more as textural space fillers rather than the attention-grabbing earworms Bambooman first envisaged.
The title cut ‘Hollowed’ is a sleazy, electro-funk inspired number that could be the soundtrack to a seductive robot lap dance routine, followed by the laid-back chillwave nod of ‘Fields’. Rife with sunset vibes, the track rocks a gangsta-inspired, plucked electric guitar motif, soulful vocal manipulation that works both as part of the rhythmic bed and in a melodic sense, and percussive elements that sound like tiny bits of gravel hitting stone.
All said, this EP is a belter, and one of clever contrasts, feeling familiar, but at the same time completely alien. It has its feet in many musical camps, but doesn’t let any overriding influence wash out its own vision and identity. It fits a variety of moods, but at the same time allows you to project whatever feelings you want onto it, and with so much music being implicit to the point of stupidity nowadays, that can only be a good thing, right?
Bambooman – ‘Hollowed’ EP is out now on Sonic Router Records.