When Darrell Fitton (aka Bola) dropped his debut album Soup almost 7 years ago, it felt like a breath of fresh air on the electronic scene. Although it wasn't anything that hadn't been done at that point, it sounded fresh and interesting enough that it really stuck out from what was being done at the time and still holds up pretty darn well today. Bola's follow-up full-length of Fyuti was another solid chunk of melodic electronic music and while it had a few tracks that stumbled, it was much more consistent than the somewhat chunked-out Mauver EP.
Gnayse is the newest effort from Bola, and like his debut has a bit of humour in the title that isn't really mirrored in the music itself of the release. Again mixing somewhat haunting cinematic passages with ultra-crisp production and excellent programming, Fitton has again dropped another slab of music that will take you back to a slightly earlier place in terms of the sounds that it conjures up. Although it doesn't sound retro in the least, when I hear Gnayse I'm reminded of the almost ridiculously-fertile electronic grounds that were being covered in the mid to late 90s by the Warp Label. It was a time when Autechre were at their prime and Boards Of Canada were just starting to make the broad brushstrokes that seemingly made the entire globe fall in love with their every move.
In contrast to the middle work released by Fitton, part of the success of Gnayse is that he has seemingly stripped things back a bit. The work of Bola has always been the most affecting to me when it's less muddled and in that way this effort is closer in personality to Soup while being a little bit more developed musically. Opening with "Eluus," the disc lulls the listener off into almost a different space and time as it recalls the simple beauty of work on Autechre's first release Incunabula.
"Sirasancerre" takes a more overt cinematic approach as swells of synth strings linger while a building series of blips and bleeps turns into a squelched rhythm and "Heirairerr" is a short interlude of filtered ambience that works quite well to bridge into the next section. It's in the middle part of the disc that things become a bit more aggressive, and it's here that the album loses a bit of the more subtle persuasion that it had going during the first section. "Effanajor" and "Vhieneray" both get stuck in overly repetitive passages for far too long while "Pfane, Pt. 2" is sort of distracting with the almost glitchy beat (given the more smooth backing of other tracks). Still, when the album is on, it's quite lovely, and simple pieces like the warm melodics of "Pfane, Pt. 1" float by like the soundtrack to a picturesque train trip across the countryside. It's interesting how time can color a certain sound of music, and while Gnayse definitely has some great things going on for it, I'd still reach for Soup first.