The debut album brought to us by BAMBOO, Prince Pansori Priestess is the product of pairing Nick Carlisle of electro-synth band Peepholes and Rachel Horwood of primal post punks Trash Kit. Recorded in London and Brighton, this album shows a highly developed style of producing, and an accomplished mix of Carlisle and Horwood’s musical backgrounds creating something altogether new and refreshing. It is apparent that the duo have taken inspiration from a variety of different cultural and musical influences which at face value might seem conflicting, but have been blended together in a way that, although experimental, is polished to perfection.
Beginning with ‘Auroch’ as an opener exposes us to Horwood’s voice alongside the delicate twanging of a banjo, and flows through into subtle vocal layering that builds the track. Following this with Carlisle’s synths creates a deeply intricate soundscape, and the banjo provides an essence of folk music which, combined with asynchronous acoustic drums, helps to initiate that this record isn’t necessarily pinned down by a typical genre structure. The second track on the album, ‘Stone’, is a more ambitious step up into the unknown, which pairs a deep vocal line with a pitched harmony that is continuous and enveloping; it sets Horwood’s vocals together in a way that bears resemblance to Mongolian throat singing, a hypnotic mantra that is contrasted against synth melodies and a heavy electronic beat. This track is one of many on the album that exhibits a hugely intricate way of piecing together its components, which pulls you by the hand through a vibrant and artistic narrative.
“an unexpected mix of Pansori tradition with synths and glockenspiel beats might be exactly what the world needs right now”
Horwood’s voice alongside the pitched plucking of a banjo, and a deep, progressive synth backdrop provides a far eastern soundscape which goes appropriately with the title of the album. Pansori is a traditional form of Korean musical storytelling which uses a vocalist and a drum, and at times the juxtaposition between the deep synth bass and light vocals and instrumentals reflects how BAMBOO have taken note of this alternative form of music. ‘Hotaru’ is a perfect example of this, a slow progression from rhythmic strings and wooded percussion to an other-worldly trance, and ’Khene Song’ (which begins with a synth melody that sounds like it should be in a video game) features fast paced, woody beats that sound like a glockenspiel or handfuls of claves. These are paired with a deep drumming pattern and chanting vocals, bringing a strong resemblance to tribal music that definitely deserves a fire pit to dance around.
In a world where electronic music is easy to come by, and not so easy to make distinctive, we can find solace in BAMBOO and breathe a sigh of relief. It’s difficult to fit the album into a particular category because it subtly breaks through a number barriers, and flows from one to another with ease. And perhaps it is this ambiguity that makes me appreciate BAMBOO even more; an unexpected mix of Pansori tradition with synths and glockenspiel beats might be exactly what the world needs right now.