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Boom Bip - Blue Eyed in the Red Room

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Artist: Boom Bip

Album: Blue Eyed in the Red Room

Label: Lex

Review date: Feb. 2, 2005

In late 2002, Warp offshoot Lex chose Cincinnatian Boom Bip to record the label’s first full-length. Taking his name from the jazz expression designated for the sound of the kick and the snare, Bryan Hollon's selection as the label’s initial “defining sound” made sense. Seed to the Sun’s interlacing electronics, orchestral hip hop, and elements of rock and jazz helped stamp the direction of the subsidiary. Since then, Boom Bip’s remixed (been remixed) by stalwarts of the genre like Four Tet and Boards of Canada, toured with Prefuse 73 and moved to Silverlake, Los Angeles, to record follow-up Blue Eyed in the Red Room.

Far removed from 2000’s unearthly Circle production alongside Dose, Bip almost completely forgoes the boom-bap for post-electro on Blue Eyed. Similar, though not as drastic, to Manitoba’s (ur ... Caribou’s) departure between Start Breaking My Heart and Up In Flames, Hollon advances his technique with each new recording. Composing the album almost entirely through live instrumentation, he played everything on it himself. The most obvious aural deviation is the complete absence of samples – the guitar (electric and acoustic) takes a more prominent role in the lithe arrangements, while basslines ride nice and high in the mix. These macrobiotic, multi-tiered song structures are more varied and fleshed-out than his debut.

The cushy “Girl Toy” deceptively starts off like a track from TNT before wrapping up with a bright, trickling piano that cheerleads a stodgy drum pattern along. “Eyelashings” sounds like nothing else in Hollon’s catalog: a florid, gauzy hook, a Goo-ey bassline and a contorted electric guitar solo. The same can be said for the afternoon breakfast strum, stretched whistles and soft flute tones of “One Eye Round The Warm Corner.” And if the Cure seriously attempted instrumental hip hop, it might sound like the taut bounce of “The Move.”

His guest vocal selections further tag Bip as a budding “songwriter.” Last go round, merry wanksters Dose and Buck 65 checked mics; here Holland turns things inside out enlisting Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys and Touch and Go singer/songwriter Nina Nastasia. “The Matter (Of Our Discussion)” closes the record, underlining the latter’s reflective lilt. Over a litany of compressed instruments Nastasia describes a relationship at a defining moment: “I might leave tomorrow to feel the joy of a new start / I don’t believe in the wisdom of stone … in a god or the mind/ … I think about you sleeping/ how you’ll miss the morning tide/ but my stomach is uneasy and I choose to stay outside.”

Blue Eyed in the Red Room doesn’t fit any hip hop preconceptions. Moving deftly from influenced to influential, Boom Bip defines himself by leaving limitations behind.

By Jake O'Connell

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