Somnambule - Writing About Music

bip_bop generation vol.7 (compilation)

bip_hop. Note the underscore and the lowercase typography: this label is unlikely to be putting out folk music or trad jazz. bip_hop is a French label, child of one Phillippe Petit, with an admirable roster of artists and an interest in investigative collaborations evidenced by their split releases with Fallt. This seventh posting from electronica-land contains 14 tracks by 6 known and lesser-known artists. In the former camp must surely fall Taylor Deupree, Janek Schaefer and Ghislain Poirier and in the latter perhaps Emisor, Fonica and Fm3.

Taylor Deupree’s three tracks are like the channelling of digital malfunction into a stream of functional sound. Together they might be the sonic/musical equivalent of journeying through a city-centre, the video of which – shot from a car window – has been reversed, slowed down to halfspeed, its colours muted and the whole thing blurred. Factor in an overly zealous compression routine which imposes sudden pixel jags and you may (literally) get the picture. That the tracks are titled ‘Slow’, ‘Southwest’ and ‘Street/Light’ only seems to substantiate such interpretation further.

Emisor is the pseudonym of Argentinian Leonardo Ramella. He contributes four tracks, the first two of which bustle along with a little less subtlety than Deupree: they feel less processed and more programmed. However, their busy activity, relative structure and hints of other musical forms make for an agreeable contrast. The second two tracks are more process oriented. ‘Disolucion Imaginaria’ in particular, gradually deconstructs its rhythm over a three minute duration. Japan’s Fonica switches the mood to begin with gentle, lambent waves teetering and vibrating into the distance, all the time worried in a none too anxious way by little clusters of silver sound. This passage gradually telescopes into further sections, each different yet related to its predecessor. The result is a beguilingly beautiful 11 minutes.

Fm3 – as the liner notes state – “focuses on digitally distilling ancient Chinese folk tradition into an organic, meditative, minimalist soundscape... Their music doesn’t disappoint such a description. ‘’ mixes a muffled piano figure which continually approaches and recedes with small string flourishes. ‘Zheng’ is notably spooky and might have been inspired by that country’s fascination with ghost stories. A name to watch. Ghislain Poirier musters ambiences as if leafing through old photograph albums, the signature scent of curling photographs, dust and discoloured paper is almost tangible. The arrival of pleasing, asymmetrical beats only deepens the nostalgic pleasure. Janek Schaefer ends with ‘Vasulka Vauban's A Day In The Good Life'. This could be an Eduard Artemyev soundtrack for a longlost Tarkovsky short. There’s a sense of mysterious narrative borne along upon ambient and electronic incident.

bip_hop are one of a number of labels who value good visual design as an important part of the musical experience. Vol.7 is no exception as it comes clothed in a lovely, understated digipak sleeve which might have wandered out of an Op Art exhibition in 1967. The sleeve also contains a booklet with useful biographical information and short discographies for each artist. This compilation format, whereby each artist delivers one longer track or a cluster of medium length tracks totalling between 10 and 15 minutes, means that the listener new to these artists is more likely to be able to gain a proper sense of each musician’s style. A welcome alternative to the enforced anonymity created by cramming too many artists represented only by a single track onto a single disc a la the Clicks and Cuts compilations. The music on this disc is of an exceptionally high quality throughout. Recommended.
Colin Buttimer
June 2004
Published by the BBC