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Artist: Bows
Label: Too Pure / Pure 90CD
Tracks: 13 tracks

Blush (Sample)

So you just got the new album by this band called Bows, and it's blown your mind. You've never heard trip-hop done quite like this, and you want to share it with some friends who are hip to the genre.

You pull out this album, tell them what it is, and put it on. At first, they're hesitant. "It's going to sound like some sort of cheesy rip-off of Portishead's lounge/noir/spy movie shtick, or Lamb's jazz n' jungle," they say. "We're going to hear another smoky-voiced woman sing against a backdrop of tortured strings, Morricone-ish guitars, and fractured hip-hop beats and scratches. Every trip-hop group does that." The first track comes on, and their eyes slightly widen. They hear the cascading mixture of organ and strings that sounds like it's being filtered through a stained-glass window. The beats kick in, with a strong drum n' bass feel to them. And the vocals, courtesy of Signe Wille-Jorgensen, come on. To egg them on, you mention that you're reminded of Lamb, especially tracks like "Lusty" off their first album. Your friends nod, but comment that this vocalist doesn't come across as grating as Lou Rhodes does, and the music seems a little bit more laid back.

You let them hear it for a little bit, than skip to "Blush." The male vocals, courtesy of Luke Sutherland (Long Fin Killie) mix quite well with the plucked strings and slow beats, while a rolling wall of guitars hovers in the background. Your friends are getting into this one. You can tell as they close their eyes and nod their heads in time with the music.

They begin to say things like, "I don't really think this is trip-hop. The string arrangements are much more prevalent. It's more like jungle, but matched with heavy orchestration. Check out the harp-like sounds on 'Overfor Kommer,'" or, "This doesn't have the same noir-ish feel that a lot of trip-hop does. It's a lot more uplifting and less menacing." You decide to pull out the big guns and skip to "King Deluxe." It starts off slowly, with faint vocals and muffled beats. But then the strings fade in; thick, lush strings that feel as good on ears as deep, thick carpet feels on feet. Hazy vocals weave through the strings, inside and over the muffled beats, sounding like they could float away at any moment. These songs aren't programmed or sampled. They sound like actual compositions.

"Britannica" comes up, and one of your friends says, "Wow, this sounds a lot like that Halou album!" You nod, 'cause you can see the similarities, with the Liz Frazier-esque vocals hovering over manic breakbeats. But Halou's music didn't have those rising strings or symphonic undercurrents that keep driving the song up and up towards some glorious climax that never really comes.

As the album progresses, they hear the spaghetti western opening of "Sleepyhead" or the vocals on "Girls Lip Glitter" that sound like Tricky if he hadn't eaten so much gravel as a kid. And when they hear the final minutes of "Rockets," which seems locked in this scintillating wall of noise straight out of a shoegazer album, you know they're hooked. Oh, to sound objective, they say, "Some of the music sounds similar to the first Hooverphonic album," and that, "Bows still basically sticks with the basic trip-hop formula, even if they do hang a little heavy on the drum n' bass rhythms, and those string arrangements remind me of Lamb's first album." But you can still smile, knowing that they'll all be wanting a copy before the week is through. Mission accomplished.

Jason Morehead 11/9/99


Jason Morehead is also the publisher of Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at http://www.opuszine.com.

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