Boom Bip: from abstract hip-hop to spooky sounds of black magic from the turn of the 19th century
October 24, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Bryan Hollon, better known by his musical handle Boom Bip, is probably recognized for two drastically different sounds: abstract hip-hop from his early Mush Records days, and his Mercury Prize-nominated Neon Neon collaboration with Gruff Rhys. Add to that a new inspiration: black magic from the turn of the 19th century. What does that sound like? Let Boom Bip walk you through his new album, Zig Zaj. Step behind the deep red velvet curtains for a peek at the history of Boom Bip.

Starting as so many artists seem to, Bryan Hollon was first in a few rock bands going back to his middle school years, but he had been interested in hip hop for a long time. When he got enough money to buy turntables, he did so, and started spinning hip-hop and downtempo. While DJing, Hollon met Adam Drucker (Doseone) and Robert Curcio (of Mush Records), and thus Boom Bip began as a hip-hop producer and DJ. His first recording was the first record released by Mush Records, the 1998 EP The Low End Sequence (sample: Boom Bip & DJ Osiris - Voodoo Science [YouTube audio]).

In a couple years, Boom Bip had collaborated with Doesone on Bip's first album, Circle (The Bird Catcher [YTa]; The Bird Catcher's Oath [YTa]; The Bird Catcher's Return [YT video]; album streaming [Grooveshark]). This album marked the shift of Mush Records from hobby to proper label, and John Peel had them on his show in 2002 (Me and People, Fence Hopper, Birdcatcher's Return [YTa]). Of this album, Peel even likened the sound of the record to Captain Beefheart.

Two years later, it was a new century, and Boom Bip signed to a new label for his new album. Moving across the pond, Hollon signed on with Lex Records, which was an appendage of Warp Records at this time. Lex gave Boom Bip wider distribution, ensuring a broader audience for this new project: Seed to Sun (U R Here [YT, odd video]; Awaiting An Accident [YTa]; Mannequin Hand Trapdoor I Reminder [YTa]; album stream [MySpace]). This album, and the tour to promote it, were the first times Boom Bip had moved beyond strictly samples, creating sounds on the fly with a range of items, from turntables to a theremin. The album was extended with two EPs (From Right to Left and Morning & A Day), which were combined as Corymb, with two new songs. This new collection featured a rare Boards of Canada remix (Last Walk Around Mirror Lake [YT, paired nicely with slow motion sky diving]) and a wicked remix by Venetian Snares (The Unthinkable ft. Buck 65 [YTa]), to pick out two tracks.

Boom Bip's next album featured payback of sorts from Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. Hollon remixed a track (Father Father [YTa]) on SFA's remix album, Phantom Phorce, on the condition that Rhys would lend his vocals to a Boom Bip track, which he did on the track Do's and Dont's (YTa). The album was Blue Eyed in the Red Room (album stream [Grooveshark]), in which Hollon relaxed, looping less and playing live instruments more:
Seed to Sun I used several live instruments, but usually looped sections and sequenced them out. This was because I was wanted everything so perfect and I was not able to keep time with a click track for 5 minutes on each instrument. With Blue Eyed I was able to do that and also allow a bit more freedom with the changes within the song. I was not concerned about DJs being able to spin this album. With Seed to Sun I still had that in mind. I just wanted to do a piece that people could enjoy listening to in any situation.
And then things shifted for Boom Bip. Something happened, and his next release was, as put in a Pitchfork review, "an album of driving electronic pop infused with Krauty mechanical pulsations, clubby, night riding synthesizers, and the sort of crystal-clear dynamic shifts Hollon has shied away from until now." Sacchrilege (album stream [MySpace]) came out in 2007 on Lex Records, and would not be the end of the Krauty sounds from Boom Bip.

Rhys and Hollon continued collaborating, working on a concept album about the life of John DeLorean. They called themselves Neon Neon, and their album, Stainless Style (I Lust U feat. Cate Le Bon [YT video]; I Told Her on Alderaan / Trick for Treat [YT video]; album stream [MySpace]) made the 2008 Mercury Prize short-list (they lost to Elbow, for the album The Seldom Seen Kid).

Now it's 2011, and Boom Bip is bac, and it's time to get haunted. After delving into the library below the Magic Castle in Hollywood, Hollon emerged with magic on his mind, naming his album with a nod to the magician Zan Zig. You can stream the whole album and read Hollon's track-by-track comments, listen to his "album parallels mix" (tracks that inspired his tracks), and read his list of five favorite uses of magicians in music.
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet heavens, thank you.
posted by Shepherd at 1:36 PM on October 24, 2011

Man, Circle was completely my favorite album for like 9 months. I was having a big ol' mental break at the time. I tried putting it on a week or so ago and it still, to me, sounds like the sound of someone going crazy in a really specific, anxious, involuted way. I wonder whether it sounds like that to anybody else. Probably not.

Fucking fantastic post, filthy light thief, as always. Thanks.
posted by penduluum at 1:39 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

What a wonderful post. Thank you! I'm a huge fan, have all his stuff, I've gone to concerts, spoke to him etc. - immensely talented individual. Some of it left me cold (Neon), but this new direction is highly interesting.
posted by VikingSword at 1:40 PM on October 24, 2011

I used to play Circle, Seed to Sun, and the single with Osiris all the time. Great stuff. Corymb was decent to, but less even.
posted by Theta States at 2:04 PM on October 24, 2011

Great post, flt! I used to be big fan of Boom Bip, but haven't listened to anything he's put out since Blue Eyed. He puts on an excellent live show, definitely make an effort to see him if you ever get the chance.
posted by joedan at 2:28 PM on October 24, 2011

I had no idea that Neon Neon album had been up for the Mercury Prize. Thanks for the post; I came across Neon Neon randomly and will enjoy digging through the links. (Coincidentally, I'm seeing St. Vincent tonight and Cate LeBon is opening, to tie my current music consumption to the post.)
posted by immlass at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2011

I had fun putting this one together. I got word of the new Boom Bip album and thought "ooh, new abstract hip-hop!" Upon hearing the album, I was first confused and sad. "Where are the beats?" But then I listened more, and read about the influences and the process of making the album, and I really dig it. And I found out that Neon Neon is better known than I realized, plus that album is starting to grow on me.

In short: have fun listening and reading, I did.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on October 24, 2011

Thank you, thank you! I have a lot of (rather scattered) Boom Bip tracks in my heavingly unmanageable terabyte bitsprawl, and bought Circle and the Birdcatcher's Return back in the day. A Walk Around Mirror Lake is a favourite, and not just because it's a couple of drops of BoC on the tongue in this insane drought. One of those people who I love but can't get a grip on, and one I never play for anyone because it's intimately weird... Peel said it was like Beefheart, eh? Damn the man. I knew that. It just never occurred to me.

And then, this - "I like to call this one my Wyatt-inspired track. There is a song by Robert Wyatt called..." taste: impeccable.

The new album. Three songs in now, and it's like I'm listening to Peel in 1979 on AM late at night through static and naivety. What IS this, I don't even... It's got Siouxie, it's got Joy Division, it's got early Simple Minds (no, no, no).

But yeah. Yeah. YEAH.
posted by Devonian at 3:32 PM on October 24, 2011

Awesome post! I love Blue Eyed, and I'm pretty sure I got to Coachella early one day to see him perform. I remember the note next to one of his CDs at Amoeba said simply "this shit destroys", and I always thought it was an apt description.
posted by Horselover Fat at 7:27 PM on October 24, 2011

Wow! I'm pretty into IDM and abtract hip-hop but I'd somehow hardly heard of this guy. I'm streaming his new album now and it's really something special! Thanks much for the post, I'll be delving into the discography ASAP.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 8:20 AM on October 25, 2011

What, you've never heard of Boom Bip? Have you never heard of Mush Records or Lex Records? If they're new to you, you really should check them out (they might be in my ever-growing queue of labels that I'd like to write up in bio posts).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:04 AM on October 25, 2011

Lex had the prettiest of dye-cut record sleeves...
posted by Theta States at 10:13 AM on October 25, 2011

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