Bomb the Bass is back, but put away that smiley face: this is no nostalgia trip. With ‘Future Chaos’, Tim Simenon revamps his long-running project to produce a record that's fresher than anyone might have expected from an outfit that got its start in the '80s. Tickling tweeters and pushing the limits of low-end, the album hovers confidently on the cusp between futurism and vintage, boasting the sort of confident song writing that's a rarity anywhere, much less in electronic music.
Simenon calls it ‘electronic music with soul’, but that barely begins to describe it. At once lush and chilly, intimate and alien, ‘Future Chaos’ is a synth-rich album boasting guest vocals from Jon Spencer, Mark Lanegan, Fujiya & Miyagi's David Best, Toob and Paul Conboy.
It's been 21 years since Bomb the Bass' ‘Beat Dis’ helped usher in the era of sampling, acid house and DJ culture. It's easy to forget how monumental the single was. Going straight to number two in the UK charts, the song's success quickly propelled Simenon from underground DJ to in-demand knobsman. Long before Marc Ronson or Timbaland, he was the go-to guy for the Midas Touch. In those early years, he co-produced Neneh Cherry's stone classic ‘Buffalo Stance’ and Seal's ‘Crazy’ — not a bad run for an upstart fresh out of sound engineering school.
Throughout the '90s, Bomb the Bass continued to blaze trails with the classic ‘Bug Powder Dust’, the trip-hop blueprint ‘Winter In July’ and the dubby ‘Clear’. All the while, Simenon racked up production and remix credits for acts like Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Curve, Björk and Massive Attack. Just as important were his many collaborations with a surprising range of artists: J. Saul Kane, Jah Wobble, Sinéad O'Connor, Hector Zazou, On-U Sound – even actress Minnie Driver turned up in the mix.
On ‘Future Chaos’, Simenon's guest vocalists are as inspired as ever. David Best, of Brighton Krautrockers Fujiya & Miyagi, spreads his trademark free-association whispers all over ‘Butter Fingers’. Toob, the duo of Jakeone (Jake Williams) and Red Snapper's Richard Thair, lend a nervous, sultry touch to ‘Burn the Bunker’. Jon Spencer — yes, he of Blues Explosion fame – infuses ‘Fuzzbox’ with the distant purr of robot phone sex. Paul Conboy, of A.P.E. and Corker / Conboy, sings and shares writing credits on five more songs, with a lush-yet-understated touch that recalls Thom Yorke in his mellower moments. But the most striking appearance here might be Mark Lanegan's. Formerly of the Screaming Trees, a onetime member of Queens of the Stone Age and collaborator with PJ Harvey, Lanegan has a voice like no other; on ‘Black River’, his smokes-and-whiskey drawl proves the perfect complement to Bomb the Bass' rich sonics.
The sonics are the other thing that quickly distinguish ‘Future Chaos’. Simenon may have made his name as a savvy cutter of samples, but this time out he's gone back to basics—to the grace of analog sound design and the finesse of a well-turned musical phrase. ‘A lot of the stuff I was originally working on, it got to a point where I was feeling really frustrated’, says Simenon of the long process of assembling the album. ‘So it was time to strip everything back, just bring it back down to its core parts: drums, bass, some tones and some voices’.
A vintage piece of kit helped him find his focus. “Rediscovering the Minimoog really was the turning point for getting into ‘Future Chaos’”, he says. “Simplicity, you know. As clichéd as it sounds, it was like throwing the book away, but that’s what I had to do. We’d just set up in Paul [Conboy']s kitchen. It was basically us without loads of gear—just the Minimoog, a laptop, and a mic set up. That was it. There's so much that goes around producing records; doing things this way and that. But this was us saying, fuck it, let’s just record some tunes, you know”.
The results don't sound like a ‘fuck it’ kind of album, but there's certainly a rare degree of freedom here, from the range of tempos to the way that Simenon and his collaborators stretch out and explore every range of the spectrum. The more you listen, the more you hear – ghostly tones, stealthy modulations, diamond-like harmonics that dissolve upon impact. That's immediately clear with ‘So Special’, the album's first single – a melancholy disco lullaby with harmonies downy enough to rest your weary head upon.
An electronic album that isn't bound by genre; a pop album that's not afraid to stretch out or space out. ‘Future Chaos’ is these things and more, and it's here now. If this is the shape of chaos, maybe we don't have so much to worry about.
Release Date: 15th September 2008