Tim Simenon's new album, however, feels more like looking at glossy, laminated and digitally-perfect snapshots of the recent past. Back to Light follows 2008's Future Chaos, which was Simenon's first Bomb The Bass album in 13 years after stints as a producer for the likes of Depeche Mode, a connection kept through a guest appearance from Martin Gore here. Shorn of samples, Future Chaos set the blueprint for this follow-up, although Back to Light is sleeker and more synthetic-sounding than its darker analogue-wrought predecessor.
That may well be due to Simenon hooking up with Gui Boratto, recording at the Brazilian producer's studios before sending them out to a range of vocalists including Kelley Polar, long-time cohort Paul Conboy and American folkstress The Battle Of Land And Sea. There's certainly a pronounced similarity to Boratto's subtly shapeshifting techno in "Start," for example, but "Boy Girl" also suggests Simenon has been gorging on the '80s-obsessed electro-pop of The Juan Maclean alongside his Kompakt and Get Physical diet.
But however finely-detailed and polished Back to Light may be, it can't disguise the fact that Simenon is now imitator rather than innovator. Not that there aren't great moments here. "Price On Your Head"'s miasmic electronica is particularly astounding, sucking Richard Davis' despairing vocal into depths as viscous as quicksand. "Blindspot," meanwhile, could be a more subdued Underworld, while "Milakia"'s string section is corroded from within by an acidic bassline. Yet the reason these latter two attract attention isn't so much due to their own merits, but instead because they sound markedly different to the tracks around them: The largely unvarying midtempo pace makes the album as a whole feel curiously monotone.
It would be impossible for Back to Light to have the same shock-of-the-new as Bomb The Bass' first tracks did in the '80s. It's also unreasonable to expect Simenon not to have matured his sound since. But where once Bomb The Bass sounded like nothing else around, now they resemble too many other things to really stand out.