Kirk Barley, also known as Bambooman, hails from Leeds and has spent the best part of five years crafting his sound across the course of six EPs and collaborations with some of the finest vocal and hip hop talent in the UK. The release of his debut album, Whispers, in August will mark the culmination of this experimentation and the result is an enthralling and at times dizzying slice of downtempo electronica.

Asked why he was now ready to release an album after so many EPs, Barley has said he now feels, “confident enough with his sound and techniques to make the album I wanted to make.” The result is a record which evokes emotions and feeling by its sound alone and draws on vocalists to complement and enhance the producer’s soundscapes. There is a dusty, organic sound to the record; like an old hip hop record, with hours spent digging in crates pulling together the perfect sound palette from which to craft the record. However, instead of soul and jazz records being the influences, the album is taken from real life sounds and field recordings; falling water, metallic claps and digital bleeps are blended in an often unexpected manner. Bambooman has spoken about the electro-acoustic style processing techniques used in recording the album and it has helped create an other-worldly sound that feels nonetheless real and tangible.

The record is entirely self-composed and a reflection of the various artistic phases Barley has enjoyed. Ambience, techno, art commissions and soundtrack projects are all part of his diverse resume and all make their mark here. Title track ‘Whispers’ featuring Elsa Hewitt provides the best example of the dusty record aesthetic, drawing comparisons with Sampha, yet is more stripped back and skeletal than anything released by the South Londoner, and the experimental sounds of Flying Lotus. On ‘Static’ there are touches of house and techno. ‘Melt’ meanwhile, is the best example of field recordings being pieced together, underpinned by a simple melody and a bravery to experiment and not feel forced into any pre-conceived concept of what music should sound like.

‘Daxamite’ is an early release from the record and features the vocals of King Kashmere, who Bambooman credits with being one of the UK’s finest wordsmiths and distinctive voices, something he adds credence to with a starring turn of intricate lyricism of otherworldly experience befitting of the beat. Regular collaborator Segilola also features on ‘Brisk’, which nods its head to pioneering artist Burial, to whom you can draw lines of influence from Bambooman. The warping synths, muted horns and crunching drums are intoxicating with Segilola’s beautiful vocals sitting above and the result is a sparse track that will feel most familiar to long term fans and accessible for new listeners.

The result of these varied influences is a record that is both captivating and challenging, unconventional in scope and structure yet rewarding, with every listen unveiling new sounds and details. Bambooman continues to prove himself as an innovator and a leading voice in British electronica and this record is a testament to this.

Whispers is released 25 August on Accidental Records (partly funded by PRS Foundation) and will be supported by a number of upcoming live dates.

Upcoming Live Dates

August
03 – Jazz Café, London
10 – Total Refreshment Centre, London
23 – Mutek Festival, Montreal

September
22 – Hifi Club, Leeds
27 – Green Door, Brighton

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Words: William Sutton