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Bamboo The Dragon Flies Away LP 18.00EUR

The second full-length by London-based art-pop duo Bamboo is loosely based on a story about a demonic Hannya mask originating from Japanese Noh theater. These types of masks appear to be menacing and scary, but also frightened and vulnerable, depending on how one views them. Bamboo's music expresses a similar range of emotions, but it isn't really dark or evil-sounding; it's lush, colorful, and energetic, filled with vivid synths and acoustic instruments ranging from marimbas to flutes. While Bamboo's 2015 debut, Prince Pansori Priestess, had sort of an electro-folk sound, The Dragon Flies Away is significantly more dance-friendly. House and post-disco elements inform the group's sound more than before, putting the group in league with indie dance groups such as Holy Balm and Peaking Lights. Rachel Norwood's gently dramatic vocals recall the best of Annie Lennox and Kate Bush, as well as 2010s avant-pop artists like Julia Holter. The music fits nicely in with the 2010s vogue for '80s Japanese music and anything that can be described as "fourth world," but it doesn't sound like a bid to appear as trendy. They're obviously genuinely fascinated by the culture and folk tales of Japan and Korea, and they do a laudable job at weaving these inspirations with their Western influences. The album's most exciting tracks perhaps inevitably end up being the uptempo ones. The group sound at home mixing pulsating dance rhythms with heartfelt sentiments, particularly on standouts such as "Thinking of You," which has bright percussive patterns along with airy synth melodies. Even at the group's most propulsive and busy, the instrumentation still sounds delicate and considered, not aggressive or overbearing. Slower numbers such as "Like a Sparrow" are cloudier yet still graceful and determined. The album concludes with its more introspective title track, during which Norwood confesses her lack of trust in herself. Poignant and captivating, The Dragon Flies Away is a step forward for Bamboo, and a fine listen. ( Paul Simpson )

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 20 June, 2017.
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