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TRACK LIST: 1. Lament 1:55 2. Frankincensed 4:47 3. Majestic 5:56 4. Injusa 4:03 5. Illuminate 6:25 6. USA 2:04 7. Lantra 3:57 8. They Control the Weather 5:29 9. Switch 2:49 10. Future Cities 4:49 11. A Very Good Friday 4:39 12. 3572 Off 5:52 LINEUP: Neil Campbell – guitars; keyboards Andy Maslivec – bass; all vocals Joey Zeb – drums, percussion Marty Snape – electronics
Prolusion. The UK quartet BULBS was formed in 2011 and is based out of Liverpool. Their stated goal is to "bring together adventurous music-making with information and sound samples chosen to challenge the audience to look around them at the world in which they are living", a goal they have mainly sough to reach while performing live within a multimedia context, if I understand the band’s description correctly. "On" is their debut album, and was self-released in June 2013.
Analysis. Of the four members of this band I am familiar with one of them from before. That is guitarist/keyboardist and what appears to be the band leader here, Neil Campbell. Those with good memories and deep musical knowledge may recall his Neil Campbell Project and the most excellent disc "Particle Theory" from a few years back, a compelling blend with acoustic guitars, violin and cello as dominant instruments. I recall that production as one mainly acoustic dominated, and most brilliantly so too I might add. With his latest band Bulbs, Campbell and his fellow musicians appear to stretch out towards territories somewhat different in nature, and more varied by far as well. Still, those who recall the aforementioned album by Campbell is served a treat right at the end of Bulbs' debut CD with 3572 Off, a spirited mostly acoustic guitar driven affair with Campbell's trademark plucked playing style the central feature, flavored with some electronics, a firm bass and drums backdrop and occasional riff and guitar solo details. Performed in what I'd describe as a subtly Fripp-inspired manner. Those fond of quirky guitar dominated music with likely inspiration from the grand old master of King Crimson are also treated to more of that, in a somewhat different manner, on USA earlier on this disc. Otherwise Campbell's acoustic guitars are paired off with neo progressive inspired arrangements on Majestic, alternating acoustic guitars and guitar soloing on top of a spirited bass foundation on Lantra, fragile plucked guitar sequences paired off with compact, grinding riffs on Future Cities, and returning to the very start of this disc Lament showcases how effective acoustic guitars and longing guitar soloing combine on that brief and beautiful melancholic opening composition. But for sheer brilliance two fairly similar compositions are the ones I'd highlight. Frankincensed, a creation that comes across as an acoustic and more structured take on the Ozric Tentacles kind of music, with a neat spoken word cinematic sequence in the middle part, and later on They Control the Weather, a somewhat different construction still with a futuristic sound to it and yet again with a spoken words cinematic sequence midways, but this time revolving around a dual themed compositional core with subtle intricate rhythms, careful electronic details and plucked guitars for the first shifting to a more spirited second theme with cold surging keyboard textures combining with the acoustic guitar for in a highly compelling, contrasting arrangement.
Conclusion. Neil Campbell is a high quality guitarist and a skilled composer to boot. His excellence on the acoustic guitar in particular is given lots of room to shine on this production, paired off with subtly or sharply contrasting themes where the electric guitar, keyboards and electronics are given more room. With a high quality rhythm section backing him the end result is an intriguing one, difficult to place within a defined subgenre context but well worth checking out by those who tend to enjoy innovative progressive rock in general, especially those amongst that loosely defined audience that have an affection for plucked acoustic guitar details.
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