Bola, "Shapes"

Skam has finally released Bola's early, untitled 12" singles on a single CD called Shapes.  I can't decide if the record avoids sounding dated because it is timeless, or because the state of vaguely dance-oriented, melodic electronic music hasn't progressed much since the late '90s.  It's probably a little of both.

 

Bola's Soup remains one of my most played records because it captures that simple but entirely synthetic beauty of melancholic electro better than just about anything else.  While Boards of Canada were warming up the analog tubes and Autechre were moving away from melodies towards complete abstraction, Bola was turning out the electro equivalent of love songs and power ballads made with drum machines.  So, it's no surprise that I'm a big fan of Shapes, which is a record from that general era of Bola material between his first two albums.

Apparently the collectors have been clamoring for a re-release of this initially limited vinyl offering for some time, but I imagine that in some cases, that has more to do with completing Skam listings on Discogs than it does with actually sitting down to enjoy these tunes.  The reissue is good for folks like me, though, who weren't on the right mailing lists when these records came out and don't routinely spend fortunes on eBay tracking down out-of-print vinyl.  

What's a little strange about Shapes is the way it comfortably fits in Bola's discography no matter where I try to place it chronologically.  While it shares a lot of the stylistic touches of Bola's oldest work (and indeed one of these tracks appeared on the Skampler compilation in some form,) if Skam had told me that this was just a completely NEW Bola record, I think I would have been none the wiser.  In fact, when stacked up against the many other producers making this kind of emotive synth music in 2006, Shapes sounds positively contemporary. 

That's probably a bit of a mixed blessing.  Like a lot of bands that put out an early record that I love and then don't veer far from the formula, I imagine that when I want to reach for a Bola record I'll probably always just pull out Soup or the anomalous Mauver if I want to mix it up.   Still, it's nice to have yet another example of impeccibly crafted electro mood music to drop when the grooves on the old favorites have worn thin.  Besides, when I put the tracks all together on an mp3 player, I'll probably never tell them apart anyway.