Synth Album Review: Gribbles, "Bosh!"
Bosh! by British electronic music wizard Gribbles has to be one of the more interesting and, frankly, slightly mad albums that I’ve ever reviewed. It’s mad in the best possible sense of the term. There’s something unconventional and original in how Gribbles has approached the music on Bosh! It combines really solid melodic writing, intriguing percussion sounds, vocal samples and a wide range of synths with a mad sound scientist’s ability to run through a gamut of styles and influences that somehow all seem to sit well with each other.
The first element of Bosh! that I want to comment on is Gribbles’ ability to write catchy, warm and even quite beautiful melodies. Whether they are delicate and full of warmth in a track like “Existence” or fun and catchy like the main melody in “Wait a Minute Now,” the melodies always deliver. I’m a sucker for a great melody so that’s where my focus tends to go.
I enjoy the unique combinations of sounds that Gribbles has chosen to use on Bosh! There’s some Latin percussion and funky bass on “FN Key,” and a really great xylophone-like sound on “Breathe” along with the sound of breath exhaling that adds a rhythymic pattern in a most interesting way. Other fascinating sounds include slightly distant and distorted piano, string instruments and a flute-like sound. All of this variety keeps things fresh.
The vocal samples that are a part of this album are something that I personally liked. Whether it was hearing Bertrand Russell’s voice on “Existence” or the repeating sample on “One Thing”, the samples actually added meaning to the tracks. They can also serve as one word devices to complement the tracks as in “DNFTT” or to heighten a certain atmosphere like the dub reggae lyrics in Ask Ken. Some producers seem to just throw them in randomly, but I thought there was real intent in how Gribbles engaged with them.
The mad sonic scientist in Gribbles has also successfully managed to make a wildly diverse range of music sound like it all belongs together. Bosh! ranges from dance floor bangers like “Wait a Minute Now!” to dub on “Ask Ken” and from the funk of “FN Key” to tranquil tracks like “Kinsque.” Perhaps it’s the consistency of the throbbing basslines or the repeated use of vocal samples, but I felt that the album hung together fairly well despite the diversity of the tracks.
I wanted to also note that the production values on this album are superb. Everything is clear and clean without any muddiness or overly dominant elements to distract from the total sound quality of the whole.
I’ll talk a bit about the tracks on Bosh! that had a particular resonance with me and why I felt that they did resonate so much.
There’s something about hearing the great philosopher Bertrand Russell’s voice in “Existence” and the topic about which he’s speaking that added a real humanity and depth to the track. It begins with synths that pulse rhythmically out into open space as a chiming synth plays a light and elegant melody. The sounds on this track have a flow and grace as they move over the solid bass. As the melody evolves, it shifts into a more minor key “B” section before returning to the original warmer “A” section as the track ends.
I was immediately seized by a sense of calm when the sounds of breath filled my ears on “Breathe.” The xylophone-like sound that opens it has a richly resonating quality to it and the gorgeous main melody is carried by a combination of flute, string and piano-like sounds. There are broken segments over which the piano dances. The constant sound of breath provides a steady flow. There are moments of tension that arise as the track continues, adding some interest before things return to the beautiful flute and string-like sounds as the track comes to a close, leaving only the sound of breath behind.
“Ask Ken” is pure dub wise reggae with a technological edge. There’s also a really gnarly bassline on this track along with a metallic synth sound. I enjoyed the whole vibe of this track including the vocal sample and really cool trumpet line that’s slightly distorted. There’s a nice bass solo and the whole thing really rides the rhythm.
On the more experimental side, we have a track like “a2” it starts with one repeating sound drifting into space, spreading out like ripples. A high pitched “beep” repeats as those ripples keep spreading. A scrambled voice speaks in what sounds like Russian as a solid pulsation of bass comes in. The lead synths on the track never quite form a full melody, but this is a layered, interlocking track in which each synth interacts with each other to produce the full effect. I especially enjoyed the pan pipe-like synth tone on this track.
Perhaps my favourite track on Bosh! comes in the form of “FN Key.” It has some very cool Latin percussion and a funky bass as well as a catchy, ear-grabbing melody that rides on that funky, undeniable groove. This track is another showcase of Gribbles’ ability to build a track that interlocks all of its various elements seamlessly. I also have to say that the organ on the track really complements the overall funky vibe of the track.
“Night Tricks” starts with a slightly distant sounding piano line that moves through swelling synths that billow up in clouds underneath it. The track oozes tranquility to begin with as the piano plays a beautiful series of arpeggios, but as it evolves the track becomes more tense as some high synths and deep bass enter it. This momentary tension is quickly dissolved by more airy, warm sounds that return to settle things down.
The diverse nature and sometimes experimental moments on Bosh! might not suit every listener, but I found that I enjoyed Gribbles’ desire to explore different sonic landscapes and mad scientist-like willingness to try odd combinations and experiment over the course of the album. Gribbles is one of those artists who is likely to make more innovative, surprising music in the future and I’ll listen out for what he does next.