When Bomb the Bass released Future Chaos in late 2008, it had been nearly a decade in the making. Now, barely a year later, Tim Simenon is back with a new album whose accomplished songwriting and sonic scope belie the spontaneity with which it came together. The title says it all: Back to Light.
The dusky atmosphere of Future Chaos has given way to a more radiant sound, buoyed by waves of synthesizers and propelled by clean-lined grooves. Raising the tempo, Simenon takes inspiration from classic techno, while vocal contributions from Richard Davis, Kelley Polar, The Battle of Land and Sea, and Paul Conboy bring Bomb the Bass into newfound melodic focus. It’s a brighter, more immediate sound than before; warmer, too, with the singers’ voices positively glowing inside intricately woven electronic nests. But there’s no lack of nuance. Every track is a delicate balance of intimate delivery and cosmic sonics, underscored by a faint sense of melancholy.
The album came together quickly. While the shrink-wrapping still cooling on copies of Future Chaos, Simenon was already sketching out tracks for a new album, and in late 2008 he headed into a SÃ£o Paulo studio to work with a new collaborator: Gui Boratto, Brazil’s master craftsman of deep, melodic techno, known for his records on Kompakt and Kompakt Pop, as well as a thrilling remix of Bomb the Bass’ own “Black River.”
“The idea came about when I heard his remix of ‘Black River,’ which I adored,” says Simenon. “It was a very comfortable environment, very easygoing. Gui’s got a small studio in his house, and I had the basic sketches drawn up a few months beforehand, so we could just work together on one computer, bouncing ideas back and forth.”
The tropical environment proved fruitful. It took just two weeks to give the album its basic shape. “It just happened,” says Simenon, “right from the offset, when Gui and I sat down in the studio. Even though some of the stuff he does is dark, a lot is quite uplifting. A lot of those melodies really began in that first couple of weeks in Brazil.”
Back home in Amsterdam, Simenon sent the unfinished tracks to a select group of singers; New York avant-disco maven Kelley Polar and occasional Swayzak collaborator Richard Davis each tackled two songs, while The Battle of Land and Sea (Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter Sarah O’Shura) contributed one. Longtime Bomb the Bass collaborator Paul Conboy lent his deep, distinctive voice to four songs on the new album.
A final guest appearance is made by none other than Depeche Mode’s Martin L. Gore, who plays synthesizers on the closing song, “Milakia.” The original tapes were recorded more than a decade ago, after Simenon had produced the band’s album Ultra. “It’s a track I’ve always loved, but could never find a home for, really,” he says. “It seemed like a perfect closer for this particular album.”
The results add up to a compelling set of interlocking songs that each have a specific sound and feel, from the ’80s-inspired “Boy Girl” (featuring Conboy) to the jewel-toned minimal techno of “Up the Mountain” (featuring The Battle of Land and Sea), and from Kelley Polar’s dizzying harmonizations on “X Ray Eyes” and “Start” to the unforgettable heartbreak Richard Davis brings to “Price on Your Head” and “Happy to Be Cold,” two of the album’s most enthralling songs. It’s a rich, rewarding album that makes the most of its particular tensionsâ€”tough/sentimental, guarded/yielding. Its brightness draws you to it, and its shadows draw you in: Back to Light.
It goes without saying that an album this rich offers a wealth of material to inspire remixesâ€”and so old hands and upstarts alike are jumping at the chance to put their spin on the music. Four digital singles feature an impressive cast of characters: Gui Boratto, John Tejada, Extrawelt, Atom TM, Mark E, Jake One, Kwesachu (Kwes + Micachu), Anderson Noise, Leo Zero, FM Radio Gods, and DJ Marky & S.P.Y. Even Simenon himself gets in the act, with an additional Bomb the Bass remix of “The Infinites.” And why not? After Simenon’s many years spent producing other people’s records, Bomb the Bass is making up for lost timeâ€”and it’s our gain.
01. Boy Girl featuring Paul Conboy
02. X Rays Eyes featuring Kelley Polar
03. The Infinites featuring Paul Conboy
04. Price On Your Head featuring Richard Davis
05. Blindspot featuring Paul Conboy
06. Start featuring Kelley Polar
07. Burn Less Brighter featuring Paul Conboy
08. Happy To Be Cold featuring Richard Davis
09. Up the Mountain featuring The Battle Of Land And Sea
10. Milakia featuring Martin Gore