A disappointing collection of reheated ideas from the Rephlex artist.
Bochum Welt's first two albums for Rephlex, 1996's Module 2 and 2008's R.O.B., shone with character. Songs like "Arnos Park," "Extra Life" and "8221SB" exhibit the memorable melodies and heart-in-mouth tenderness of romantic IDM and electro at its best, playing out like soundtracks to bodycam footage of someone hang gliding on a cloudless day. So the announcement of a Bochum Welt LP on Sheffield's fastidiously retro label CPU looked to be a killer fit. Where better to bring attention to an underappreciated braindance artist than a label known for its dedication to keeping the '90s flame burning? Sadly, Seafire reveals a lamentable running theme in the Bochum Welt catalogue. The album feels like a reheated dish, and an undercooked one at that.
On first skim, Seafire is a brief yet enjoyable stroll through mellifluous ambient pastures. Three cuts of bleepy squelch are scattered in the sequence a little randomly, but the core of the album is pleasingly beatless and beatific. Some songs are slight, others abruptly fade out. It may be uncharitable to pick at a collection of electronic lullabies whose lush textures and suspended chords evoke dewdrops at daybreak. Part of ambient's innate appeal, after all, is to impart a becalming sense of déjà vu, as if to tell you you've been here before and everything's alright. Yet the more I listened to Seafire, the more I felt a gnawing sense of familiarity—and not in the usual manner. Bochum Welt is not just recycling fairly basic tropes, but presenting old songs as new ones.
The similarities between "Canyon Drive" and "Color Me" might ordinarily be permissible. That "Color Me" appears twice on a 32-minute album—"(Mix 2)" and an "(Extended)" version, which is only 17 seconds longer and barely differs—is pushing it. However, we've heard "Color Me" before. It is strikingly similar to "The Garden (And The Chateau)," from 2013's Good Programs (To Be Coloured In Yellow). The foundation of that song appeared again in 2017's April as "Garden (NYC Mix)" which lifts the same drum kit and a samey pattern from Good Programs' "Crescent Heights." A quick scan on Discogs shows that "Melodie d'Aout," one of the zippier songs on Seafire, has already been released twice, in 1995 and 1998. There are more examples throughout his catalog.
The album's standouts, such as the stately closer, "More Light," are cheapened once you realise the LP has been padded out with skin grafts of old material. Set it against Carl Finlow, who has turned in two excellent late-career records on CPU as Silicon Scally in the past year, and it smacks of laziness. When you consider the younger artists on the roster (96 Back, Cygnus, Mikron), whose releases in 2019 have refreshed electronic modes of old, and it looks worse still. The arrival of Bochum Welt on CPU should have been a crowning moment. Instead, what we have is a glaring weak link.