Switched On – BUNKR: Graveyard Orbit (VLSI Records)

What’s the story?

It’s second album time for BUNKR. His time between albums one and two appears to have been well spent, with a keen emphasis on open textures and broad synth lines. The second BUNKR album is inspired by where satellites go when they die – Graveyard Orbit being a term for the universal car park they are moved to when operational life is done, and they are retired as space junk.

What’s the music like?

In a word, vibrant. The music for Graveyard Orbit is every bit as enjoyable as the BUNKR debut, and if anything a little more nuanced. There is also a touch of sadness about the satellites’ fate, felt most keenly in the beatless Vanguard Distress Signal.

Terminus 23 has an appealing warmth, while the glittering synths of Stargazing are rather special. 6am Eternal plays with expansive drones as a Bach-like synth line snakes through the textures, while Graveyard Orbit itself summons up a shuffling percussion track to go with its cool expanse. Glacial Shift is a woozy affair, the keyboards shimmering like the northern lights, while Astral Spectral pulses with activity, its quick beat and urgent lines rushing forwards. Dark Chorale has a subtle similarity to the harmonic movement of Primal Scream’s Come Together, which turns out to be a kindred spirit in feeling too.

Does it all work?

It does. BUNKR’S second album keeps everything that was good about the first, and builds on it rather effortlessly What’s not to like?

Is it recommended?

Very much so – as long as it is purchased in tandem with the first. With fluent writing and rhythmic invention, the Brighton-based producer has moved on a step from his already impressive achievements!

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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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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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