Bus: Eagles

For those with fond memories of Bus's Middle of the Road and Feelin' Dank (issued on ~scape in 2003 and 2005, respectively), Eagles will be regarded as a welcome return. Not a whole lot has changed in the Bus sound in the years since those albums appeared, with one notable exception: the absence of MC Soom-T from the new release, the third full-length by Berlin duo Tom Thiel and Daniel Meteo (in fact, so integral were her vocal contributions to that earlier group sound that Feelin' Dank was formally credited to Bus featuring MC Soom-T). That the Bus sound has remained consistent despite the nine-year break can be attributed in part to the fact that some of the tracks on Eagles were recorded years ago.

To bring the picture into sharper focus, Bus reunited after an extended hiatus and returned to the studio in 2012, the original goal merely being to enhance their digital production skills for a projected live presentation at Shitparade 2012. But one thing led to another and soon enough Thiel and Meteo were revisiting some older, never-before-released pieces along with some already published and ripe for upgrading (“Westen,” for example, which originally was released on twelve-inch in 2002), resulting in the eventual completion of the all-instrumental Eagles. What the forty-eight-minute collection presents is not only quintessential Bus but an album that singlehandedly embodies the ~scape aesthetic in its breezy blend of dub, electronica, funk, and hip-hop.

In touching down upon multiple stylistic bases, “Miami” functions as an excellent scene-setter for the album, with the track's multi-layered sound rich and full of micro-detail, before “Moons” redirects the Bus sound into an earthier and funkier direction. In a typical track (such as “Rhodeos” or “Grove”), throbbing bass lines, spindly guitar shadings, and percussive-enhanced grooves form the backbone while synthesizer patterns and dubby, echo-drenched effects provide stimulating counterpoint. Pieces like “Skank,” “Soundberg,” and “Pure Singa” unfurl with a confident swagger that reflects the command Thiel and Meteo bring to their creative work.

“Tamed Lion” lurches with a kind of dazed, dub-funk languor that suggests the track could pass for a Bus-Pole collaboration, but the most conspicuous departure from the established Bus sound arises during “What is Paris,” a fabulous cut featuring Dabrye (Tadd Mullinix) that's immediately identifiable as such for its raw, neck-snapping groove, vinyl crackle, and sputtering synths. The tune's so good, it's hard to resist pondering what an album-length collaboration between the two would be like. I'll confess to missing on Eagles the powerful dimension MC Soom-T brought to the Bus sound, but bringing someone aboard like Dabrye definitely helps compensate for her absence. In fact, given how much Thiel and Meteo's music benefits from the input of others, it's hard to resist imagining how a future Bus collection might sound if Dabrye, Pole, and Deadbeat were involved as collaborators.

February 2014