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Bogdan Raczynski

Alright!

(Rephlex; US: 20 Nov 2007; UK: 19 Nov 2007)

It’s been five long years since the world last saw some original material from Polish-born, American-raised blitzcore egomaniac Bogdan Raczynski (not counting the one-off, one-sided single remix of Björk’s “Who Is It” from 2005). It could have been something simple like he was imprisoned for tax evasion. Maybe he just didn’t think us lowly MP3 uploading, life leaching parasites were worth the effort of producing an EP, let alone an entire full-length, till Oprah hosted an intervention, or perhaps he was horribly burned in a quiche explosion, which subsequently required him to wear his Power Rangers costume at all times, resulting in several vile stenches unsuitable for public consumption. One thing is for sure, though, it certainly wasn’t because he was out of ideas… hell, and maybe it was. Who really knows anything about this guy?


With his label favouring brevity and Bogdan writing his own press releases as a vent for frustrations regarding the general stupidity of critics, very little in the way of actual information about the man behind the ingenious musical monstrosities has managed to squeeze out into public knowledge. His interviews reveal little more than a few choice recipes, utter contempt for the person asking the questions, and a whole lot of misinformed bitching about the ease and availability of bootlegs in the digital era (dude, try repressing something ever ‘cause I’m not going to pay $97 for Renegade Platinum Mega Dance Attack Party on Amazon). There aren’t any good excuses for this kind of cantankerous arrogance and fan loathing, but there are a few reasons; he’s either insanely talented, insanely vain, just insane, or a little of each. As always, the truth lays somewhere in the middle.


Since Bogdan signed to Aphex Twin’s own Rephlex in 1998, he’s released five full-lengths and three EPs, and all in his first five years on the label. That kind of belligerent output sure cements a fan’s expectations, so to just up and take five years off without a peep is really something. The sheer weight of anticipation must have become too much to bear as the title Alright! with an exclamation seems to point to caving in under that pressure.


Musically, the album picks up right where he left off, suggesting the title could merely represent the obvious, that everything is okay as ever. Either way, it’s best not to read much into Bogdan’s naming, if Ibiza Anthems Volume 4 and ‘96 Drum ‘N’ Bass Classixxx are any indication, the latter of which saw him use 12 different pseudonyms for no particular reason. He knows he’s being watched.


Despite the lengthy hiatus, Alright! fits perfectly in Bogdan’s rich and manic catalogue. As far as I can figure, he’s still using the same computer and programs he’s had since the beginning (an old PC and trackers, most likely), so the sonic pallet utilized is the same as ever. From a purely aural standpoint, this album sounds as much like his ‘98 debut Boku Mo Warakan as 2003’s I Will Eat Your Children Too, if not more so. But despite this consistency, with the ambient noodle My Love I Love standing out as the only easily notable anomaly, the fact that brings people back for Bogdan is that he’s an obvious bastard genius that anyone with a taste for intelligent electronic music can’t deny.


Like many of his releases, Alright! has no track names, so I must now refer to individual tracks by number. “Part One” matches the “yeehaw” energy of its bit crushed vocal sample with a pitter-patter jump up drum and bass loop and a phat warping bassline that bounces and weaves like a chipper club kitten coming up on her first pill of the night. Things take a turn for the evil about two minutes in, when an obnoxious synth twinge takes over for the main melody, running into mutant acid territory by the movement’s end. Yeehaw is right, but damned if it ain’t emotionally confusing. Am I picking up good vibrations or stuck on the Sloop John B?


“Part Three” puts the intelligent in IDM. Bit mauled and compressed to hell, the track begins humbly enough with a crunchy bass and stubby lead trading pauses in a disjointed but travelling melody that really starts kicking when the tin can loops blend into something resembling stability. Eventually the synths turn 303, but only briefly before revisiting the base of the song. “Part Five”, on the other hand, is a true acid hard house number, leading with that classic Roland sound that has come to define the genre.


The ass grabbing, ceiling punching four-four beat deliciously breaks down to old school boom-bap hip-hop breakbeat somewhere in the melee, but there’s just too much going on to spot the exact moment. Besides, with LSD, time is relative anyway. “Part Six” stands out on the album as its almost ambient track. The first minute consists of some kind of redux filtered harpsichord and wispy little blips and tones directing Bogdan’s usual pensively sketchy mood to the couch. Even when the schizophrenic beat kicks in, the track essentially stays chill.


Overall, Alright lands somewhere between the smooth breakbeat fusion sounds of Samurai Math Beats and the dense jungle of Thinking of You. Yet, given the incredibly lengthy time frame he had to work with, one couldn’t be blamed for hoping for a little something more than standard Bogdan fare. Certainly the I Will Eat Your Children Too EP alone rocked harder and contained more diverse and complex melodic interplay than the majority of this new album, so to regress to softer, simpler sounds may lead some to embrace disappointment.


The hard house hybrid drum and bass that makes up this record is unique enough compared to what everyone else is doing, but it doesn’t feel like he really pushed himself. A decade ago this would’ve been fresh as hell, but it ain’t a decade ago. It may be time to invest in a MacBook, dude.

Rating:

Compelled to words by music since 2004, Ranta's words have appeared in such esteemed publications as Exclaim!, Tiny Mix Tapes, CBC Music, and PopMatters. He also regularly votes for the Polaris Music Prize, Village Voice Pazz & Jop, Juno Awards, and in all local, provincial, and federal elections. Based in East Vancouver, he's been known to a rave and/or rant, cat whisper, play basketball, pessimistically root for the Canucks, and read far too many comment sections. He graduated with distinction from SFU in 2012, with a bachelor's degree in music.


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