‘Out of intriguing musical seeds, an electronically-centred euphoria blossoms.’
Intro to Bahla
Garnering much acclaim for their debut album ‘Imprints’, Bahla return with 5-track EP ‘Life Long’. Showcasing their musical diversity, the new release sees the duo formed of Tal Janes and Joseph Costi take us through a myriad of electronically influenced tracks a world away from the sound of their previous ones. Sure it’s been a few years, but the change of sonic direction, like the quality of musicianship, is phenomenal. Joined by Portuguese singer Inês Loubet – whose vocals throughout are a thing of beauty – as well as regular collaborators drummer Ben Brown and bassist Andrea DiBiase, each moment of every track, but particularly ‘The Source’, is second to none. Equally, in it also featuring the work of producer Mark Cake on the EP’s title track, and it being mixed by Alex Killpartrick, it’s little surprise we get to experience it in such glory.
Bringing both intrigue and momentum from the word go, a curious sounding combination of kalimba-tinted and bouncing bell-like synth motifs emerge from the silence. Simplistic, and filled with wondrous potential, these initial seconds are ones that have an incredibly special quality about them. Likewise, with the soft, whispering vocals of Inês Loubet setting out the vocal hook of ‘plant the seed, in the crack…’ among this atmospheric content, there is a sense of us having to actively listen. This is, of course, the whole point as in being completely contrasting to the more familiar sound of opener ‘Hold On’ the wealth of musical diversity for us to enjoy is showcased.
Then boom! Bursting into life and possessing a brand new energy, snappy, tempo-pushing drum patterns and swirling celestial chords infuse the sound. The near-meditative atmosphere gone, you want to leap up and move to the euphoric groove. This sound, which for now at least appears only briefly, is one that, like the opening ‘source’ material shouts of incredible potential. To be clear though, this isn’t saying that it is undeveloped, but rather a way of highlighting just how phenomenally strong every hook Bahla creates is.
Further switching up the groove of the track, accompanying the arrival of fully projected vocals is a sparse texture built on a collection of motifs. Passed across picked electric guitar and deep bass, the established energy is completely encapsulated. Equally, with those percussive patterns seeing the removal of open high-hat, the rhythmical tightness, like the all-round musicianship, is astonishing. Meanwhile, delivering a vocal of quality that equals the quality of everything else, Inês’ tone strikes you with its blend of naturalness, softness, and stylish intention. As music goes, it’s an absolute joy to experience.
Taking us back in the direction of those sparkly synths, as the chorus emerges earlier elements blend in a totally seamless way. And yet, while there may now be an even greater multitude of interlocking motifs, it never feels crowded. Working like a musical springboard, the precise placement of chordal content gives the guitar motifs something to bounce off, while those very same motifs emerge only to disappear just as quickly.
Achieved just as successfully, the vocals balance atmospheric swells with barely audible versions of the opening hook. Like before, we are encouraged to listen hard. However, in keeping the intensity of sound, you can’t help but be at one with the music. Furthermore, while there is an overriding sense of complexity, in showcasing Bahla’s compositional strength to the max, you find yourself having an epiphany around being able to hear every nuance.
Ever-pushing the sense of rhythmical drive, on progressing beyond later verse content we hurtle through a succession of familiar, new, and interrelated textural developments. Bringing additional hecticness, heavily arpeggiator-affected motifs are the first to appear, signalling that change is on the horizon. Simultaneously, a new vocal phrase of ‘No-one sticks out from the crowd, normally I turn back round’ brings a directiveness not heard elsewhere. Then, sending a more intentional earworm right into our heads, ‘I believe, I believe in you’ combines with its surroundings to generate a sense of cathartic euphoria.
Given not just these changes, but the retaining of momentum too, you may very well believe that we are heading for a big finish. However, we are not. Instead, in what could be Bahla’s most masterful stroke to date, they drop us back into a contrasting sonic world. A sonic world where intrigue, understated experimental textures, and alternative settings of former lyricism take centre stage. Sure it may not be the ending we were expecting, but to link back to ‘The [musical] Source’ in this way is to highlight just how clever they really are.