Dave S. SoDo
With less than a month of summer remaining, I would be completely dropping the ball if I omitted coverage of one of the season’s greatest musical testaments and landmarks in Bullion’s fantastic, long-awaited, formal debut album, “Loop The Loop.” The journey Bullion (London-based producer Nathan Jenkins) has embarked on, sonically, is nothing short of remarkable, and seamless, at that. Having seemingly abandoned his initial trademark sound of sample-based, hip-hop-inspired breaks (showcased with the captivating mash-up statement album, “Pet Sounds In The Key Of Dee,” which married samples of the Beach Boys’ iconic “Pet Sounds” with J Dilla, aka Jay Dee’s equally impactful “Donuts,” as well as subsequent L.A.-beat-scene-referencing EP’s and singles that touched on off-kilter rhythms atop lush vocal samples and hard-hitting beats), his course soon changed direction – dramatically. Opting just some years later for a tongue-in-cheek, nostalgia-drenched approach, he has since created an infectious 1980’s pastiche of anthemic and progressive rock meets hazy, psychedelic pop. This updated, bolder Bullion shows growth rarely seen by producers associated with U.K.-based, bass-blasting dance culture. Propelled further along his current trajectory by a prevailing wind of whimsical, lyric-based song structures and engaging, billowy synth melodies, he manages to be simultaneously squirrely and, yet, unquestionably tender and emotional.
It is easy to consider “Loop The Loop,” out of its discographical context, as a cute and silly synth pop excursion. But with further examination of his progress towards this great work, it becomes clear that the trip has been carefully mapped-out and expertly navigated. This foray into a melange of 1980’s electronic nostalgia is immediately noticeable in the curation and creation of his own record label, Deek Recordings. Contributing production, mixing, and mastering duties to nearly all of its releases thus far, it is obvious he has a fresh palette of sounds and vibes he is re-branding with for his record label as an attempt to exhibit his newfound interests and tastes he’s acquired in the ever-changing electronic music community. Ideals of sheen, nuance, and unabashed admiration for the campy sides of the musical spectrum are embraced and pronounced in the fun-loving efforts such as his debut Deek Recs. LP, “Love Me Oh Please Love Me,” Rooster EP, and most acutely in the Elmore-Judd collaboration album as “Blludd Relations.” If passé music styles of twenty years ago can be celebrated and re-contextualized in the form of mellower, albeit goofier takes on conventional dance music, are we turning our backs to, or actually reestablishing our relationship with said culture? This conundrum is explored, in depth, in the impressive thirteen-track effort that is “Loop The Loop.”
Bullion integrates a polyphony of styles, ranging from cheesy yacht rock homages to moodier, more contemplative song structures that incorporate African high-life rhythms, R & B, 1980’s synth pop, and a slew of other masked and mixed electronic and considerably radio-friendly styles and atmospheres. With this album, Bullion has made perfectly clear that he stands by his musical decision-making and has committed himself to learning more about how distinctive sounds do not need to steer-clear of one another, but that true innovation and sonic advancement in the realm of dance music can form organically out of their synthesis. The textures and moods touched-upon throughout the album eschew the rules of dance music, let alone the club, loosening themselves up in truly new ways. Imagine the frenzied intro theme song to Pee Wee’s Playhouse simmering in a sonic bouillabaisse of quirky, original bedroom synth pop and neon Day-Glo-adorned pop rock stylings of the 1980’s; if that sounds like a party you’d like to be invited to, Bullion has provided a one-way flight there. While, debatably, yacht rock can be seen as the musical touchstone of the late 70’s and early 80’s summertime chill-out soundtrack, Bullion has undoubtedly established a personalized sound for the sun-kissed season which one might consider private plane pop – clever, cool, and intrinsically palatable tunes emitting contrails of palpable, attractive, unwavering groove.