Bola Kroungrine

[Skam; 2007]

Styles:  IDM
Others: Plaid, Boards Of Canada, Luke Vibert, Beans

Even though Bola is the highest selling artist in Skam history, I still feel like he is tragically underrated. I just never see the guy’s name anywhere but press releases and XLR8R. Born Darrell Fitton in the birthplace of modern rave culture, this Manchurian marvel is rarely mentioned when listing the giants of UK electronic music. For shame. However, the odd discerning listener has made note of his appearance on a 1995 Warp Records compilation as a sure sign of quality; there’s no denying that his critically acclaimed full-lengths and unofficial status as his label’s in-house engineer make him the heart and soul of Skam incarnate.

Bola’s fourth proper studio album and first since 2004 – not counting last year’s Shapes, a collection of vinyl-only EPs – won’t change a lot for Darrell. Sure, Kroungrine (named so to phonetically spell out a variation of UK lawn bowling called “crown green bowls”) is up to the standard that fans have come to expect, but following the same basic formula will no doubt see his underrated and underappreciated status maintained throughout this fractured and fickle electronic world. It’s a shame, ’cause some of the bubbly, glitchy chill arrangements that pop out of Kroungrine on a first listen and sink in deeper on repeats are of the finest caliber in the Bola catalog.

The opening “Zoft Broiled Ed” rides a deep hip-hop beat, blending a funky bass groove, guitar licks, indecipherably vocoded vocals, atmospheric drums, and a bit of mangled snare into a gangsta rapper’s third least favorite nightmare, being the furthest thing from Boards Of Canada on the record. “Rainslaught” is especially moving, centering around layered acoustic and filtered piano, warm synth pads, a raunchy bassline, and an almost Darth Vader-like snare, while the closing fifteen-minute opus “Diamorten” gradually moves through at least three distinct moods of ambient synthetic bliss. Sparse beats flow through and away from that track as if washing ashore for a fleeting moment and naturally, smoothly receding, lapping on crimson beaches of computer distortion while butt-wiggling groove monkeys rejoice. I’m so tripping balls right now.

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