Alcopop! has released some of 2020’s most fascinating music and with BO NINGEN’s fourth release, they are keeping this intrigue going. This London four-piece have continually pushed boundaries with both composition and production. Sudden Fictions combines vintage instruments, modern production, and jet setting recording sessions into nine tracks of boundary-pushing excitement.
From the resonating sparse opening, ‘You Make a Mark Like a Calf Branding’ lays out a blueprint for this release. The experimental combination of building layers of postpunk vocal and a musical backing that builds from almost acapella simplicity to end with anthemic synths. This ending starts a pattern that makes this release flow effortlessly in and out of both songs and musical styles.
The rolling bass and distorted guitars of ‘AKA’ take the eighties vibe and push it towards both the wonky indie of Bloc Party and the complicated rhythm shifts of math rock. Once more the ending pushes beautifully into the next track.
There is an unmistakable vintage sound to the cymbals that open ‘Silenced’ – another track that builds and develops to end in a completely new style. The guitars take the uplifting African style of Vampire Weekend or Fools Gold and bend them into a haunting slide guitar before a snarling vocal takes control ending with an uncomfortable nod towards Cooper Temple Clause.
As feedback dominates the track change, ‘Zankoku’ delicately steps the line between noizee and shoegaze. As digital glitches enter and the vocal takes a sporadic bitter tone, it is clear that this is a track that belongs on a setlist. These building walls of noise and vocal are built to drop an audience’s jaw, and within this recording, there is the spirit of an intense live performance.
The explosive ending tightly fits with the return of the haunting vocal and as Bobby Gillespie’s guest vocal enters, ‘Minimal’ cements it’s self as a stand out track. As the keys, screeching guitars, and the warmest drums combine, this is the clearest example of the timeless songwriting Bo Ningen have developed on this LP. Nods towards the infectious pop of Duran Duran, the grit of Peaches, and the floor-filling potential of Hot Chip make this the obvious single choice.
Probably the perfect introduction to a band who will challenge some listeners with their experimental musicianship.
This experimentation continues to develop with ‘Kyutai’, which mixes an infectious beat that feels perfect for hip hop with distant vocals and a delicate, almost Balearic guitar tone that radiates pure sunshine. That warmth develops with the distorted keys of ‘Kuzrenai’ before being transported with a breathy vocal to somewhere almost claustrophobic. As the ending is dragged into the next track, there is an uncomfortable air.
With a powerful vocal and angular guitar, ‘B.C’ takes this and runs with it towards a building slice of wonky pop. As the layers of vocals build, there is a euphoric wall of noise that builds to pure joy before the inevitable crash, but instead, layer upon layer of razor-sharp guitar is added as everything else slowly strips back to become a distorted digital hum.
This hum moulds into an industrial drum beat which builds bellow distorted keys and digital rumbles until another floor filler emerges. The return of the hiphop-esq beat perfectly leads into a track that starts as the uncomfortable noise of Health and ends with all the joy of The Rapture’s strongest hooks.
This is an album you need to be ready for; the endless musical comparisons and genre switches will keep you on your toes throughout, but the great thing about an album as ever-changing as this is that even if there are parts you don’t like, you know you’re never far away from another moment of joy. This release is a near-perfect musical experiment.
Sudden Fictions is out next Friday, 26th June. Pre-order it here.