ATCK042LP - Rampue - Bubblebath Trance [Limited One-Off Cover Edition]
A long-in-the-works project of ours, here comes A Tribe Called Kotori's first foray into full-length territories, as the immensely talented Rampue takes us on a melancholy-riddled ride across his phantasmatic mindscapes. A true sound explorer, deftly steering his ship down the junction of electronica, abstract and balearic-infused prog house, the Berlin-based vibist has us transfixed and elevated throughout the twelve cuts that form the backbone to this lushly textured promenade in sound - at times understatedly euphoric, at others rivetingly exotic.
Of the creative process that lead to 'Bubblebath Trance', Rampue explains "It all started and ended in the same moment: my cherished feline companion, my laptop awash with an unintended bath, and alas, a dearth of backups. The resultant calamity, an echo of chaotic tranquility." Under the generous layer of irony lies some unaltered truth about Rampue's debut long-player for A Tribe Called Kotori: this sense of serenity that goes with stepping into this warm and bubbling primitive chaos of sorts infuses the listening experience far and wide. Distantly emulating the "euphonious strains" of iconic PS1 video games soundtracks from his youth days, the album has us surfing a constant paradox of emotions, wistful but not abandoning itself to sorrow, dynamic yet suspended in some sort of mind-expanding stasis. As if you were looking at the world beneath you in exploded view, conscious of all thing, slowly moving up the many layers of our atmosphere towards uncharted skies.
A paragon of Rampue's most poignant take on classic electronica tropes, 'Harmonie' blazes with a poetic fire that engulfs about everything in its wake. Just figure yourself riding a chocobo across the sand-covered expanse of North Corel (toasting to the FFVII nerds here) as this blasts out in the distance. From this trancey bubblebath emerge lots of musical shades and nuances, from the nicely dubbed-out, brass-heavy coastal jazz of 'Schattenschranz' to the choppy, trip-hop-adjacent future electronics of 'Inside', via the exuberantly joyous mess of faux-organic number 'Tripomatic' and cinematic charisma of 'Ich hasse Sonne' high-flying orchestrations.
Connecting the dots between that trance-indebted ebullience and further downtempo-friendly attraction, 'Verfahren' perhaps encompasses best what 'Bubblebath Trance' is about: gracefully walking the tightrope in-limbo nostalgia-soaked inner movements and a powerful outward thrust, burning to let the feelings ooze out from the shell that holds them.Clad in purely 90s-compatible breaksy motion, 'Salz' is another attempt to reconcile emotional and physical dissonance, like kneading all states - solid, liquid and vaporous - into an impossible mega-vibe of its own; malleable, strong and enveloping in equal measure. Borrowing from two-step and UK garage, 'Take Away' is a definite high in Rampue's master unfolding of musical twists and turns, summoning a Boarder Community-esque atmosphere and clashing it alongside floor-ready footwork motifs to fascinating effect.
An ode to his studio companion, 'Buchla Trip' finds Rampue's exploring his machinic friend's quirky yet soulful array of electronic potentialities - making it sound like a conversation you'd have with R2-D2 in the heart of a Sandcrawler, whereas 'Kajal' beams us up to a fragmented headspace, halfway altered PC-Pop and arps-loaded electronica on amphetamines. Effusive and transporting, the title-track 'Bubblebath Trance' could well figure as the album's no.1 medley in essence: a bountiful lucid dream of dancing forms, colours and sentiments to wrap your head around, confidently drifting from a liminal state of consciousness down the rapids of one's troubled inner workings.
Rounding off the package, the languid ambient finale of 'Die Leiden des hungrigen Fruehstuecks' rubber-stamps the feeling that 'Bubblebath Trance' belongs to that rare category of albums. The ones that mint their own alphabet aside from typical norms and expectations, teaching you the ropes of their new language as it unreels between your ears - real and unreal, elusive to any other meaning than the one your guts and brains will be inclined to give it to, in real time. A crystal-pure object if you will, that shall not reveal its secrets, even after a thousand listens and just as many wowing moments.