May 4, 2012
Review: Bullion – ‘Love Me Oh Please Love Me’
London’s Nathan Jenkins initially came to the attention of many through a 2008 project entitled Pet Sounds: In the Key of Dee: an ambitious mash up that belied the influence of mercurial beatmaker J Dilla on his work as Bullion – blending the late Detroit native’s productions with the Beach Boys’ classic. Bits and pieces of wonky post-Dilla/Flying Lotus-type beats followed the likes of ‘Get Familiar’ and ‘Young Heartache’ demonstrating a mature and confident approach to production, leading to the multi-faceted genre dodging of last year’s You Drive Me to Plastic album for Young Turks. Now Jenkins is hanging up his plunderphonics hard hat and sitting down to write some delightfully off-kilter pop, expanding the influences demonstrated on You Drive Me to Plastic.
The biggest difference between that release and Love Me Oh Please Love Me however comes in the foregrounding of Jenkins’ own voice, filling a position in the mix that was previously the keep of samples or guests. It’s a fairly drastic left turn sonically – one hinted at on a couple of recent singles for R&S Records – as bare bones-type guitars, drum machines and synths form the bedrock from which Jenkins turns introspective songwriter in the mould of a more organic and less morose James Blake.
‘It’s all in Sound’ works as a sort of theme tune for Jenkins’ new direction, a celebration of the freedom of creativity when unshackled from genre constraints, as he cheerfully delivers lines such as “walk back and sideways too/whichever way you like it’s nothing new/it’s all in sound.” A rattling Roland drum machine and hand claps give the track an upbeat electro-pop air, while a sax solo outro sounds an oddly natural addition.
Also a natural fit is Jenkins reading of ‘Age of Self’ – a 1984 single decrying class war and union destruction by esoteric songwriter Robert Wyatt. Jenkins has long-expressed his own ‘un-cool’ credentials, so it follows that he would cover a song by an artist so associated with un-coolness that the verb ‘Wyatting’ has often been applied to the practice of intentionally annoying others with weird song selections on pub jukeboxes. The Bullion ‘Age of Self’ slows down the original’s arrangement slightly, retaining its ’80s sensibilities with squelching synth bass and touches of shimmering, Peter Gabriel-esque chorus guitar. It could have been a dicey selection, but Jenkins pulls it off with confidence.
In general, LMOPLM favours a sonic palate pitched somewhere between Sign O the Times-era Prince, and the more folktronica end of Stereolab or The Flaming Lips’ musical spectrum. There are afro-centric flavours – especially in the guitar lines of ‘Collision’ – and ‘Save Your Lubb”s psychedelic Krautrock is an impressive display of arrangement.
The delicate ‘Family’ employs similar tones to Joni Mitchell’s brilliant folk-jazz offering Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter – a touching piece with airy harmonica and overlapping synth layers, Jenkins’ sporadic vocal lines adding human warmth.
Closer ‘Keep a Document’ is an unfortunate attempt at MOR New Romantic pop, but it fails to ruin an otherwise endearing and ambitious EP of homespun song craft – a style that will hopefully be developed on future Bullion projects.
Read this review in context over at THE 405