Bola - D.E.G
This is the first new album from Bola (a.k.a - Darrell Fitton), an electronic music artist from Manchester, England in ten years and issued on the influential SKAM records label - also responsible for Hi-Scores and Music Has the Right to Children by the esteemed and elusive Scottish electronic music duo, Boards of Canada.
Bola first came to wide-spread attention and critical acclaim back in the late 90s, creating almost organic-sounding electronic music which was both fresh and exciting on records like Soup (1998) and Gnyase (2004). These are albums where one senses that absolutely every note has been pored over in exquisite detail - with tracks like Effanajor and Glink having a polished touch that gives them the auditory equivalent of intricately assembled jewels.
His last album, Kroungrine (2007) was a beautiful blend of intriguing textures and unusual atmospherics, coming a year after his 1996-2006 compilation of unreleased tracks called Shapes. One only needs to hear the dreamy sonar pulses evident on Squib (Nuclear) in order to fall under its spell.
His long-awaited new album, D.E.G. features ten tracks including a suite in three parts entitled Pelomen Vapour. Fans were were recently treated to a SoundCloud upload from the aforementioned title.
The album starts with the piano introduction of Fhorth and its long voice sample stretched out over everything. Herzzatzz is more familiar territory with Bola’s signature rhythms allowing the melody to slowly develop in the background. It’s not until the third track that one can appreciate why it probably took so long to produce D.E.G - Avantual has an intro that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TV ident or commercial from the 1980s. It then builds really nicely with some alluring yet unusual textures that are the artist’s trademark. Along with the final part of Pelomen Vapour (which is discussed further down), this is Bola at his finest.
Evensong is less successful with some synthetic vocals proving more of a distraction than a necessity. It is a fairly gorgeous track anyway so I cannot see why there was a need for it. Landor 50X2 sets the arpeggiators in motion but I found the drum patterns to be very harsh and while it’s an okay piece, by Bola’s standards it doesn’t really hit the mark. Thankfully the last minute or two sees the brittle drum patterns fade away and some nice looping textures take their place. There is an utterly incredible sound right at the end that almost makes up for what came before.
I suppose the true heart of the album is the majestic Pelomen Vapour suite. This sees the artist stretch out his style employing all the techniques that have made his music so engrossing over the years. Part 1 builds a really enjoyable pattern of drums and keys while an addictive melody slowly creeps out of the mix. Part 2 continues with the same patterns but here they seem disjointed before resolving into Part 3 where endless cascades of crystalline, shimmering chords and falling synth lines finally carry the suite away along vistas of blissful oblivion. For me, it’s the highlight of the album.
The penultimate piece, Kappafects features more synthetic vocals that don’t really do anything interesting and once again ruin what might have been a good track. I appreciate the intention to do something a bit different, and I’m sure there is a great deal of technical programming involved in creating artificial voices but it comes across more as some sort of Kraftwerk homage than any identity of its own. It also feels about two minutes too long. This isn’t the first time Bola has incorporated vocal samples into his work but it was a lot more successful (and dare I say, memorable) on a track like Aguilla from his first album in 1998.
The final piece is Maghellen which may be the lightest and most accessible track on D.E.G, gentle keyboards and guitar seem to meander without some ultimate purpose. You end up feeling as if you are waiting for some moment that never arrives. Maybe that was the intention. It does however feel like a rather inconsequential way to end the album.
As with all of Bola’s albums, the music has a scientific feel as though cultivated and engineered inside some fantastic, secret laboratory. One must also make mention of the artwork. As with previous albums, the artwork on D.E.G looks like a diagram lifted from a medical textbook. The sound-design on D.E.G as with previous albums is both mysterious and inspiring.
Albums from Bola may be few and far between and one hopes that we do not have to wait a further ten years for the next one.
Overall, one comes away from D.E.G with the same impression as with all his work, the sense that Bola has coaxed machines to life and then simply let them give birth to sonic organisms with unique, internal lives of their own. This is an album that will repay repeated listening as you bury down into the details of incredible sound-design and exemplary production techniques.
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