Boom Bip is conducting interviews on Brick Lane, and area which is regenerating so rapidly it seems in danger of swallowing its own tail. We are drinking mineral water in a pleasant bar, asymmetrical fringes drift past. The Leaf label in releasing the Boom Bip & Doseone album Circle, a sprawling, unsettling, panoramic hip hop record. It had an American release in 2000, yet has since been impossible to track down on these shores which, in some ways, has added to the hushed reverie preceding it.
Circle doesn't make for easy listening; cLOUDDEAD rapper Doseone's nasal rhetoric accompanies the ebb and flow of taut breaks, music concrete and live instrumentation, the album containing some 29 tracks--frenetic switches between hardcore beats and ambient field recordings. The music sounds at times like schizophrenic thought, a backing that allows Dose's comparative lyrics to pick up the thematic thread of rediscovering an inner child. The album has a dark, claustrophobic feel:
"It's a reflection of how we were living at the time. We just locked ourselves in a studio and recorded it within two months-- at times we were spending 20 hours a day working together. Dose was moving out to California the day we finished the album, so it came at a weird period of transition for him".
"Transition" would appear to be the operative word for this album. Why the sharp cuts and quick flip format? "The music was based around Dose's lyrics. We realized that they were short bursts of thought, but they all seemed so complete. It was completely free. I guess this is why people have described the album as an 'audio film', full of scenes of various lengths".
Overall the album sounds like a frantic Pharaoh Sanders record; seizing the moment, drawing it out, suspending it. Doseone can also sound like a fire jazz saxophone at times. "The guy has an incredible voice, regardless of whether people find it annoying or not. It's like an instrument, it has a resonance, like an Ella Fitzgerald scat or something".
Boom Bip's forthcoming solo material on Warp offshoot Lex records is, by comparison, a much more effervescent affair. The single Mannequin Hand Trapdoor I reminder/ Closed Shoulders is all bright guitars, tight snares and vivid synthscape; tracks rise to beautiful, cadenced epiphanies, sounding nostalgic and fresh by turns. Boom Bip is taking hip-hop back to its roots of regeneration, working as the outsider artist, with whatever varied tools come to hand. The process completes itself; the serpent swallows its own tail.
Two years on, Circle still sounds contemporary, challenging and accomplishing, despite the familiarity of avant-hop all-starts Cannibal Ox, Prefuse 73, Antipop et al: "Those guys are making great strides but are more grounded in hip-hop. We went a lot further off-centre and, although we come from the same place, with Circle I think that just as many people will love it as hate it".