Sometimes it’s better to start fresh. Sometimes it’s not. Bomb the Bass, in its incarnation as music by Tim Simenon, began shaking up the dance music scene way back in 1987 with singles like “Beat ‘Dis” and “Megablast”. The former reached all the way to No. 2 on the UK singles charts and landed Simenon a spot on the cover of NME. At the time his sound was pushing the limits of what was previously heard: sample-heavy acid house compositions with mainstream appeal. He began doing remixes for other prominent artists, released new material which departed from the path which gave him such success and took a direction more akin to Massive Attack or Tricky. The direction was now downtempo, dub influenced electronica with a more typical vocal song style and a rotating roster of vocalists. Though never the smash success of the groundbreaking sample-heavy singles with which he’d made his name, the new direction evolved further with the release of Future Chaos in 2008 and its follow-up, the more straight-ahead electronic pop album Back to the Light.
In the Sun settles even further into the groove cut by Back to the Light. The transient list of vocalists, one of which was frequently Paul Conboy, now features him exclusively as the second member of a duo. Often, his vocals appear to sound more like a heavily layered androgynous choir as on the opening track “Wandering Star”. While Tim handles the organic breakbeats with a light touch and dub reverb, the largest part of the song is limited to a repeating, rising “Wandering, wandering, wandering, star” and the simple pop trope, “People, pump, pump, pump it up.”
“Just the Universe” and “Time Falls Apart” build on a bit of an organic jazz groove with a fairly consistent breakbeat and light dusting of electronica. Between these two tracks you realize the sameness of Paul Conboy’s vocals – even on the filtering applied to them. This may be the weakest part of the record. Trying to adopt a more consistent sound throughout the record is a double-edged sword. It means that you can concentrate on what you do best, but, at the end of the day, it also means that’s all you have to play with. If you consider that Tim’s talent has always been painting with a wide palette, a single vocalist and a focused sound leaves him little to work with. “Time Falls Apart” falls into exactly the same pattern. It’s more of the same.
“Where Better” breaks enough out of the mold enough to be a stand out track on the record. Its appeal is less about how different it is though and more about the simple fact that it works better than anything else. The vocals are buried deeper and emerge for a repeating hook which locks in like a sound worm. “Where better than to be / With my two best girls.” That’s pretty much it for five minutes. But it’s a good groove.
Overall, there’s a mediocrity to the whole thing. There’s nothing about it that’s polarizing or outright awful but there’s also nothing that’s particularly innovative or exciting either relative to his previous work or that of anyone else. Even the standout tracks only stand out because everything else feels monotonous. “Cold Outside”, being the most banal track on the record just evolves into pure tedium and seems like an appropriate end for a record called In the Sun in that it’s a little disappointing.