Blue Eyed in the Red Room
oom Bip’s come a long way from his roots as experimental hip-hop cohort with Anticon rapper Doseone. Their collaboration, Circle, helped jump-start both artist’s careers out of the Queen City and onto the international stage, garnering praise from publications such as The Wire and The New York Times. For whatever reason, since the two amicably split to pursue other projects, both have gravitated towards rock-oriented sounds, constantly outrunning the tag of hip-hop that never really described their early experiments in any case.
Here Boom Bip further refines the sound set out on 2002’s underwhelming Seed To Sun. For those looking for the easy answer, it’s just as underwhelming as that release, if not more so. This installment in Bip’s discography sees the producer getting even safer than the relatively tame work of his preceding Lex album.
Perhaps it’s the insidious effect that hip-hop had on Bip during his youth. While one can’t help but admire the elements that make up the tracks on both releases (each record sounds amazing), they rarely add up to much more than trip-hop lite examples of a hip-hop producer unsure of what to do with himself once he gets all of his material ready to throw in Fruity Loops.
It’s one of the best examples of loop-based music that you’ll hear. Hell, a song like “Girl Toy” should be the demo track for the program, but a demo’s a demo—it ultimately is hemmed in by the structure that loops enforce, making the end product sound simple no matter the elements.
There are tracks of note: “Do's and Don't's,” sees Bip teaming up with Gruff Rhys which builds to a satisfying climax and outro, while “One Eye Round The Warm Corner” actually elicits some emotion with its plucked guitar and slowly building electronic clouds of sound. But it’s only the final track, his collaboration with Nina Nastasia entitled “The Matter (Of Our Discussion)” that’s worth saving from this collection. Nastasia brings a human element to the proceedings that Rhys mechanical delivery lacks, adding warmth to the already amorphous production that Bip lays below her voice.
Much like the Anticon member Alias, Boom Bip suffers from a strange form of amnesia about the music that they grew up with. Both seem to forget, at times, that what made their initial releases so interesting was the addition of the human voice. While there’s something to be said for carving out new narratives within the genre (and creating new genres altogether), when both include the few vocal tracks on their recent, mostly instrumental, releases it becomes apparent that this it’s the missing link to making this material sound vital. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. But until then, Blue Eyed in the Red Room is one to skip.
Reviewed by: Charles Merwin
Reviewed on: 2005-02-10