Two decades have passed since the initial rush of acid house was felt – which means it’s an astonishing 20 years since the smiley face of Bomb The Bass’ Beat Dis was seen in the number one slot on the shelves of your local Woolworth’s, and Tim Simenon’s mug shot on the front of the NME. Plenty has changed, then – though the nostalgic yearning for the heady heights of 1988 appears to be staging a firm stand.
Much has changed since – though we still yearn for the days of 1988. Meanwhile Bomb The Bass – essentially Simenon, though now with a vocal regular in Paul Conroy – have moved on. Where they once aimed for the centre of the warehouse at peak time, now they lurk in the shadows at the edge – and their first album for thirteen years remarkably picks up where Clear left off.
The format is essentially the same, but has every right to be, as along with Leftfield‘s Leftism Clear was one of the very first electronic albums to experiment with a variety of vocalists. So with Conroy the vocal fulcrum, the well chosen guests this time include Mark Lanegan, Fujiya & Miyagi and Jon Spencer among others.
Any fears that Simenon’s writing sabbatical has lessened his creative powers are immediately unfounded with the acrid Smog. The atmosphere is darkened, intensely brooding; and Conroy taps in to that with immediate effect, his slightly husky tones ideal for Simenon’s production. By and large this is sensitive, responding well to the vocalist’s mood and melodic inflections – particularly in the case of Lanegan, whose Black River is a deep, dark torrent with no bottom.
Perhaps the most striking track is So Special, where a winding bass loop and half-whispered vocal of Conroy ratchet up the tension, which remains coiled throughout. Lyrically the Fujiya & Miyagi track is most striking, the description that “I play Tetris in my eyelids” matched by Simenon’s well-placed bleeps and whistles.
Future Chaos comprises just nine tracks, but with each Simenon stretches them out as far as they will go, keeping the tension throughout as they segue into each other. This makes for an unbroken listening experience of an hour that keeps to mostly withdrawn vocals and back beats of hidden menace – so no Bug Powder Dust equivalent here, but music that has equal power, if not the volume. A bit more variety between moods might not have gone amiss, mind – aside from the meditative loops of No Bones, the prevailing scene is a dark one with occasional glints – like a jewel roughened and obscured by the sand.
Given that this material has, by Simenon’s own admission, been around for a while, he’s done an incredibly good job in harnessing it together and making it sound fresh. Now he’s up and running again, just watch him go.