The title of the latest Bomb the Bass album, `In The Sun' might confuse you into thinking this a soundtrack to the summer, a bright-lit holiday party record, much like BtB's very own `Into The Dragon' was back in the day.
Don't be misled, though, because it isn't. Rather this is an uncompromising set of atmospheric late night tunes which take a while to seep into your subconscious, gradually revealing their layers and rewarding repeated listens. It feels like Tim Simenon and Paul Conboy may have been reading Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time during creation of the album. There is a lot of `space' in the recording: in the production, as most of Conboy's vocals float ethereally just out of reach in a haze of reverb, crystallising in clarity only when you let your mind tune out a bit; and `space' also in the track titles and lyrics: `Wandering Star', `Just This Universe?', `Time Falls Apart' - the cosmological references create a broad canvas that manages to be both brooding and warm at the same time. Party album it may not be, but that's not too say that the album doesn't have it's share of head-nodders, nor is it a clinical soulless affair, as the album interlaces sci-fi darkness with organic basslines and guitars, and especially, the brilliant drumming of Christian Eigner, who makes a huge contribution to the texture of the whole album. After the rather minimal beats of the last two BtB albums, it's great to have some real percussive work in the mix again.
Leading single `Wandering Star' is a beguiling nod to BtB's past, as vocalist Paul Conboy invites us all to "pump-pump-pump it up". It's a great track, with just a hint of self-tribute, as Conboy's vocals reference the fact that this is BtB's 6th studio album, and asks if we `still like [their] massive tricks?'
`Time Falls Apart' on the other hand mixes infectious rhythms with a plaintive, moving vocal and euphoric brass, and is immediately followed up by the darkly epic `Bleed Into The Sun', which combines sci-fi textures and synth power chords on top of a rock-solid beat. When Conboy croons to us that `time bleeds into the sun to keep us warm', it sounds like poetic inspiration taken from Mr Hawking's aforementioned work.
There are intimate moments, too. `Where Better' finds Conboy singing of his wide-eyed young daughters, asking `Where better, to be with my two best girls?'. As the father of two young daughters myself, this really resonates with me, but even if you're not in a similar position, you'll appreciate the warmth of the track.
This is the first Bomb the Bass album not to feature a plethora of guest stars (Paul Conboy provides the vocals throughout), so if you've always enjoyed BtB's work for the variety of vocal performances and perhaps being introduced to artists you've never heard of before, then you may be a little disappointed at first. You may even think initially that it all sounds a bit samey. But give it time. It's a focussed piece of work, laden with widescreen soundscapes, catchy beats, psychedelic elements, and shades of light and dark. It's a real grower - you'll soon find yourself putting it on rotation again and again as the songs begin to get beneath your skin.
As a long-time Bomb the Bass fan, I can confirm that yes, Tim, I do still like your massive tricks. Top stuff from Messrs Simenon and Conboy - already looking forward to the next one.
Third album in five years from the legendary Tim Simenon - "In the Sun" is very much a full album collaboration with vocalist Paul Conboy. A flowing affair where vocals are low in the mix, this decidedly groove-laden platter is propelled along nicely by Christian Eigner's live drumming. Two good albums in three years - good work Sir Tim.