Friday, December 29, 2017
The Wire, summer 1993
by Simon Reynolds
Last time round, 'fusion' seemed to be a good reference point for Bandulu. At its best, their debut LP 'Guidance' was jazz-trance, as if Joe Zawinul had ended up band-leader of Tangerine Dream instead of Weather Report. Tracks like "Tribal Reign" offered supple rhythms and musky, aromatic synth-swirls that opened up your senses like a night in a rainforest. This time, though, dub reggae seems to be the watchword. Thankfully, Bandulu avoid the crass, sterile replication perpetrated by most ambient dub bands, and approach a genuine dub-house merger. On "Agent Jah", the groove-scape wavers and warps like a horizon through a heat-haze. "Shutdown" is even more minimal: it's little more than a beat in a reverb-chamber, the drums kicking up a slipstream of whispery particles and after-images. It's strangely, pleasurably reminiscent of early house classics like Royal House's 'Party People' or Nitro Deluxe's 'This Brutal House'.
What's cool about Bandulu is that their production isn't crisp and dry, like most techno, but the aural equivalent of vaseline-on-the-lens. In "High Rise Heaven", a synth-figure billows, buckles and bulges; it's as woozy and unfocussed as My Bloody Valentine's "All I Need". "Phase In Remix" is even more Op Arty, making you squint your ears and hallucinate patterns where none exist. Devoid of a beat, the track atomises melody and rhythm into a myriad motes of sound, a sussurrating and scintillating spangle-scape. It's like being swathed and swaddled in the Milky Way.
"Antimatters" has its fair share of non-events, like the train-kept-a'rollin' trance of 'Presence'. The best of the rest are those tracks which verge closest on outright dub. "Original Scientist" has echoey piano-chords, squelchifarious water-pumping percussion and a rootical synth-figure, but tempo-wise is still house music. "Run Run", though, could almost be a time capsule from the mid-Seventies--sonically, it has the slow'n'low sway and mirage-like, gilded glory-haze of King Tubby or Joe Gibbs, while the sampled chorus warns that Babylon's days are numbered, 'cos "revolution will come". Evidently the Bandulu boys feel that being dedicated herbalists makes them honorary Ras Tafari.
Like "Guidance", "Antimatters" is intermittently brilliant. As a CD, it's just begging to be re-programmed into a sublime six track sequence of edited highlights.