Listening to the various tracks from a newly-discovered good album is like seeing familiar numbers pop up in the first few seconds of a national lottery draw. The first appearance is pleasing and so is the second; the third gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement; two more good ones appear and you jump on your chair; one more pops up and you scream at the TV/stereo/neighbourhood that you'll devote your life to living in a huge chateau others less fortunate than you if the last two numbers are the ones you want. If you're like me, you'll end up with a lingering sense of the futility of life and a muddy sofa. But fear not - at least CTW has some free CC music for you to hear after you've stopped shaking your fists at fickle Fate.
Your post-lottery placebo takes the form of Bu-Bu-Bubbles by Foam, an English musician about whom I know little, for which I blame Wikileaks. If only he'd insulted a potenate or two.
There aren't many traditional musical elements (melody, harmony, development) herein. The eight tracks might best be described as beatless minimal and melodic ambient; parts of it are certainly experimental. Foam has a habit of combining featherlight tics and swirls with knocks and bangs that push up hard against loudspeaker cones. The good news is that his productions skills make his EP a palatable listen.
I'll start with the album's seventh track, Widget, because I'm a hip-swinging mo-fo who can't count. The first thirty seconds of Widget are nigh-on silent; the next minute consists of a metallic sound (the widget?) carrying out Chinese water torture (not quite the same as American waterboarding, my pedantic and politically correct chums) on the listener's frontal lobes before an answering beep pans back and forth. The only other element is a lo-fi organ sound that plays a couple of chords before the track (and the listener's lust for life) peters out. I've decided via a process of elimination that it's an experimental meditative piece - because you certainly can't whistle it, sing it or dance to it. (And I'm running out of brackets.)
Next up is a new piece of technology that will augment the planet's already over-intrusive surveillance systems. Gum is full of synths that are pitched so high and, towards the end of the track, become so shrill that only people under forty will be able to hear them. If you can't hear them, you're too old or a Motorhead fan or you play banging techno in your tarted-up hatchback. Or all three. I'd like to see that Venn diagram.
That's got the two most challenging tracks out of the way. You'll have noticed, particularly with Gum, that the sound quality is superb. So it is with the first track on the album, Day-To-Day, where the toy-like sound of a looping nine-note melody forms a musical backbone, around which is wrapped Geiger Counter-ish glitches, and percussive one-shots that sound like out-takes from Wall-E. It's a happy track.
Crab Attack is not a musical description of a naval doctor's waiting room on a Monday morning. Instead, you'll be faced with low-passed, bubbling sine waves, noises reminiscent of a fridge that's been left open, and some glitchy percussion that Riverdances right up against your eardrums.
The two minutes of Trouble remind me of the relentless music used to brainwash Michael Caine in The Ipcress File. Play it while switching your kitchen lights on and off and the reverberating, ambient washes will have you under the KGB's thumb in no time. By the way, Caine + 1960s + John Barry are widely acknowledged as a very good thing indeed. Resistance is futile: you're now under Jeff Bezos's thumb.
Bumbleebee is the type of track that's starting to pop up on the soundtracks of indie puzzle games: a half-formed melody from an inoffensive synth with lots of glitches and bells popping up now and then to keep you awake. Like many such tracks, they will burble away in the background so that you can concentrate on other matters - but if you sit down and listen to them, they will mesmerise.
I've left Offthesky's remix of Madness until last to reward your perseverance. It improves on the well-built but bland original (think Jane Russell) by blending minimal with ambient to become something more enticing (think Sophia Loren). Your clapped-out Nokia/it-looked-ok-in-the-catalogue Panasonic/of-course-I-didn't-mortgage-the-house Bang & Olufsen will enjoy it.
I must explain to the trendier of my listeners that Archipel netlabel released Bu-Bu-Bubbles when wing collars and monocles were the height of fashion. My apologies to the label (and its enlightened policy of making their commercial albums available for free after a few months on sale) for taking so long to leave the Sea of Despond, crawl onto the beach, walk upright and develop ears.
I've tagged the album as "experimental" because CTW doesn't have a paradoxical category. There aren't many albums that could be described as "easy to listen to" but not "easy listening". Foam has a spiritual, transcendent quality. If you're looking for a non-theological musical path to spirituality/nirvana/chocolate/becoming a hipster emo, you could do a lot worse than listen to Bu-Bu-Bubbles, contemplate the ineluctable modalities of life and wonder whether it might help to use a different set of lottery numbers next week. Or you could send a thank-you email to Archipel or - the horror! the horror! - buy one of their commercial albums.
Foam - Bu-Bu-Bubbles (link to individual files & zipped album)