Saturday, July 30, 2011

BOND Play with their new image

BOND's new image. Note the absence of Haylie Ecker, the addition of Elpseth Hanson (left) and how small Eos' waist is...
In 2004 bond released 'Explosive', a track that rocketed them to world wide fame, and then they disappeared. Emerging seven years later, with a new member, new image, new sound, and a new recording label, bond are attempting with a new Middle-Eastern themed album to win their way back into the music scene. While the 'Play' is mostly a disappointment, there are a few great moments, and seeing as it's a new album from bond it seems like it's worth the investment.

Highlights of the CD include 'Diablo', coined by Magnus Fiennes who wrote their previous hits including 'Shine' and 'Victory'. The piece is a flurry of staccato strings, tedious and spontaneous, with a dark flare - all being accompanied by a rapper who questions prejudice and the fairness of existence and an introduction to the vocals of Eos Charter. They provide a much needed intervention amongst the noise, and her dreamy vocals are hypnotic and entrancing. Cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff also provides a surprisingly funky tune with the Gypsy influenced 'Beatroot', an energetic dance piece which will make toes tap. Fiennes also produces magic with 'Elysium', a whirlwind sci-fi piece which sounds like a fusion of the Doctor Who theme and Muse's 'Uprising', creating up uplifting ethereal and transportive piece which is nothing short of awesome.

Most of the album is comprised of covers of other material, but some of them are quite good. The Slumdog Millionaire theme tune is here in a glitzy dance version of 'Jai Ho' which has some sweeping moments thanks to the cello and viola chord progressions, and the Black Eyed Pea's 'Pump It' is also included, however it's one of the better numbers on the album as it's adrenaline pumping, catchy, and has a distinct flare of Eastern tonality. The rendition of Bittersweet Symphony under the title 'Last Time' is pleasant, but out of place with the theme of the album, and the piece is just a glorified, souped up version that pales in comparison to other innovative arrangements such as the cover by the Vitamin String Quartet.

'Summer' and 'Winter' are equally out of place, and are equally terrible as bond has started to employ the use of a very tinny/electric string noise which many of their competitors started using over the years. bond already covered segments of Vivaldi's Winter movement in their piece 'Viva!', which could pass as a dance floor anthem, but apparently that wasn't enough because they've covered it again here with 'Winter'. The effort is passable compared to 'Summer', but also comes across as tacky, being drenched in over 9000+ effects. 'Summer' is a bombastic rendition of the second movement of Summer, which clearly tries to emulate the success of Vanessa Mae's 'Storm' - it even has rain and thunder sound effects at the end - and it falls on its face since it's just the original piece, but it's presented as some techno porn with all kinds of effects detracting from the music. There is way too much going on in the backing, and combined with that grating electric string noise it's almost distressing to listen to. The two movements try to fuse the avant-garde with pop music for the masses, but it just ends up feeling contrived.

The rest of the new material is nice, but not especially memorable. 'West With The Night' starts off promisingly with a dark mood before unintentionally morphing into some kind of RPG battle boss music. It's loud and powerful, but not moving or special. 'Apasionada' is essentially a redux of bond's old 'Gypsy Rhapsody', but 'Road to Samarkand' is punchy and distinctly Arabic, with a nice focus on strings with the right amount of percussive instruments backing conjuring up images of the Middle Eastern deserts.

The new mix of 'Victory', that is included as some kind of vague reference to the quartet being re-born and celebrating their tenth anniversary, is a total step backwards. The backing and mixing of this piece sounds dull and lifeless, and topped with the tinny strings this produces a rendition which is totally inferior to the charming original, and is miles behind the dance mix which propelled bond into their initial fame. 

This CD serves as a sort of reboot for bond. 'Play' has too many covers, and most of their new repertoire is not really that memorable. There are a few great tracks that sound perfect amongst bond's greatest tunes, but there are a couple of shockers too, and overall this material is not really up to the standard that bond left behind seven years ago. I'd recommend giving it a listen to, but don't expect it to be as good as their work with 'Shine' and 'Born'.

BOND's new album 'Play', is available in stores and online in Mexico now. Asia and Europe release dates are on September 13th, USA to be announced.

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