Bola. Soup. "Bowl of Soup." Get It? Now that I've dished some really stupid humour on the name of this disc, let me just say that it's been a pretty damn hard thing to hunt down and get my hands on. Released on the small, mysterious Skam label (also original home to Boards Of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children as well as several Autechre side-project releases) out of Manchester England, it's still only available on import, and is even pretty hard to find for one of those. While labelmates BOC have been snapped up by Warp/Matador, Bola still hasn't seem to have found a home on a larger label, which is kind of a shame given the quality of this release and the wider distribution they could get with it (hint, hint).
Upon first listen of the disc, I wasn't even consciously struck by even how good the music was. It's one of those releases that feels so natural on the first listen that I simply bobbed my head along and felt right at home. The crazy thing, though, is just how many times I've listened to the disc from beginning until end since I've gotten it. It's one of those rare discs that doesn't have a weak song from front to back and lots of high points in-between.
The disc starts out with what is really just a 7-minute or so crescendo in the track, "Glink." It bubbles, pulses and builds steadily with light and beautiful sounds until it reaches an almost heavenly plateau with about 2 and a half minutes left and levels off before finally drifting off into the second track. It starts out with a bit of screech before a hollow, thudding beat kicks in and eventually the forboding sounds are surpassed by lighter noises and melodies. This is the last time I'll drop the name, but it definitely reminds one of something that Boards Of Canada may have done, but I guess that's probably why they're labelmates. After another nice track with a fairly clunking beat, the disc goes into the amazing three-track song "Forcasa." The first part starts out with a nice shimmering progression plays before a subdued, flanged-out beat makes it's way through the track. Several light washing layers are added throughout the track and there's a great little simple solo that plays out a couple times in varying modes. Nearly half of the next part of the trio passes in nothing but a wash of sound, but is soon joined by a skittering little beat and some other wacky noises at a flourish before the finale of the track. The third part of "Forcasa" starts out with one of the most simply and sublime little melodies I've ever heard. It's the only part of the track for awhile, but it's so damn smooth it feels like you could bathe in it. Eventually, other little parts join in the fun and the track skids into motion with a beat that sounds like a hopped-up cricket. It's one of the most refreshing pieces of music I've heard in some time.
Things get a little more ambient on the next few tracks, including the nearly 10-minute "Amnion." Another song with simply great sounds is the ninth track entitled "Aguilla." It starts out with a meandering low-end bass pulse and some nice drifting noises before a clunky (but not overbearing) beat hits and carries the track the rest of the way out. The track is even given a little extra human element with the addition of a vocal sample and a very unprocessed keyboard melody. Given the unusual and interesting sounds on the rest of the album, they almost sound a little bit too normal. The track closes out with a 14-minute affair that is propelled in the beginning by a gurgling beat and even more light, shimmering sounds. As on the rest of the disc, the sometimes strange beats are offset nearly perfectly with the light washes, and it makes for an ambient album with just enough kick to keep things really interesting. While it's not mindbendingly original (but what is these days), it's put together with a very deft touch and makes for a great listen over and over. Hopefully, it's not the only disc that the group ever does, and hopefully next time I can get my hands on their release a little sooner. Solid.