Switched On – BUNKR: The Initiation Well Remixed (VLSI)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

BUNKR’s album The Initiation Well proved to be one of the sleeper electronic hits of 2019, showing off the ability of Brighton’s James Dean to present an album of really well thought out electronica.

Now as a companion piece he has commissioned an album’s worth of remixes, with eight very different interpretations ranging from Digitonal to preston.outatime.

What’s the music like?

Both calming and invigorating, in equal measure. The collection is presented in a logical order, so we begin with a dreamy Digitonal remix of For The Birds, setting the scene beautifully as the track is left in suspension, bisected by a soft piano.

Fujiya & Miyagi do a typically fuzzy take on Solitary Drift, with added flutter and distortion that suits it really well – and their own half-whispered vocals. Octavcat then ensure Solar Wings takes off with its broad chords and busy rhythm.

The upfront, block beats of preston.outatime take Left For Dust to a tougher dancefloor, while Jonathan Krisp gets some acidic squiggles going against the slow moving backdrop of The Initiation Well itself. East Of Eden acquires more bleeps and movement, a really nice glitchy bit of techno applied by Lextron, while the remix of Docking Procedure finds Infinite Scale going under the surface with a head-nodding bit of dub. Finally label heads Echaskech apply their typically robust beats to a heady remix of Left For Dust.

Does it all work?

Yes. Importantly this set of remixes works as an album too, such is the intelligent arrangement of different tempos, textures and beats. All the BUNKR originals are complemented but remain recognisably the work of Dean himself.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. If you liked the original album you’ll find this imaginatively realised remix collection complements it perfectly.

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Playlist – BUNKR

It gives us great pleasure to welcome BUNKR – aka James Dean – as the first contributor to Arcana’s playlist section this decade!

In an hour of music, James takes us through “a collection of tracks I love and artists I admire who have no doubt helped to shape the BUNKR sound”. Over the last year the BUNKR sounds has been established through the very fine instrumental album The Initiation Well, containing ‘finely crafted pictures where the imagination is left open’, according to a certain Arcana website.

Our playlist takes in blissful, slowly shifting ambience from Susumu Yokota and Steve Hauschildt, before the music gains more rhythmic impetus from R84D and Plaid. Fujiya & Miyagi are up next, applying their distinctive hushed vocals to a remix of BUNKR’s own Solitary Drift, from The Initiation Well remix album due to be reviewed on this site soon.

Moving on to more intricate constructions, we hear from Yimino and Baccara Smart, preston.outatime and the twisted synth lines of Dalham. Electronica royalty Boards of Canada are next, then the contrasting pictures offered by the remote Lost Idol and the lush Ochre. Finally µ-Ziq takes us into orbit with Goodbye, Goodbye, the closing track from his Royal Astronomy album of 1999.

Our thanks to James for a fine hour of new music, introducing us to new names and reinforcing some established ones! Enjoy on Spotify below…

Switched On – BUNKR: The Initiation Well (VLSI)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

BUNKR is the operating name by which Brighton’s James Dean operates. Before we even hear his music a strong impression is created by the bold cover, which promises discovery, scope and bright light amid dark clouds, not to mention a hint of danger.

The Initiation Well, as Dean puts it, ‘provides the listener with an intrepid exploration of the BUNKR sound world. It’s melodic, pretty atmospheric and a little bit woozy’.

What’s the music like?

As BUNKR describes. Headphones are the best means of discovery here, allowing the listener to take in the widescreen sonic views BUNKR creates on substantial tracks like Docking Procedure, The Initiation Well and Rheasvilian Lakes.

East Of Eden would seem to represent the star at the centre of the album cover. Try listening as the sun comes up and you are in for a magical experience, as it also acts as an upbeat for the kick drum of Docking Procedure, where a lumbering groove and slightly cosmic treble work really well together, and the layers of different textures and loops build up beautifully.

Left For Dust picks up speed and adds a lovely fuzzy bass to go with its busy drum track, and then Rheasvilian Lakes is a lovely floaty number, stretched out as our view disappears into the distance.

Does it all work?

Yes – the tracks work individually but the album works even better as a whole. If anything James Dean’s work here could be compared to that of his label heads, Echaskech – finely crafted pictures where the imagination is left open, though his beats are a little more dub-weighted and a bit slower.

Is it recommended?

Absolutely. This is a versatile album that works on the morning commute and during work but also as a body of work to admire and – in the faster tracks – throw a shape or two. The Initiation Well is an intriguing title that draws you in – and once initiated you’ll want to be submerged again!

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