- "Rarely is the change you make from A to B / Try a different route to C," instructs Nathan Jenkins on his excellent new album as Bullion, Loop The Loop. The song, "Never Is The Change," is the most warm and unpretentious reflection on the creative process you'll hear this year. Its loose drums and squiggly synth lines are locked in an energetic but friendly tug-of-war, which Jenkins presides over like a benevolent uncle. The whole thing glows with summer heat.
His advice probably comes from experience. The West Londoner has spent almost a decade making his way to C, beginning as the bedroom beatmaker who mashed up Pet Sounds and J Dilla (2007's Pet Sounds: In The Key Of Dee) and eventually became the master of his own small pop domain. The domain is Deek, a label he co-founded in 2012, for which he has produced gorgeous synth pop by Laura Groves and worked in the bands Nautic and Blludd Relations. He has released solo records, too—his bedroom vocal took centre stage on 2012's Love Me Oh Please Love Me EP—but he's never sounded as convincing as he does on Loop The Loop.
"Health" gives some insight into his route here. It's a sunny poolside ballad that tackles the big stuff—ambition, artistic identity—with a shrug and a lopsided grin. "I'm so passive, I hate to be / Things keep making their way past me," he sighs early on, before painting a scene of home studio angst: "Somebody's home and I'm trying to sing / I must find confidence in myself." He seems to have found it. His world is a colourful, comfortable place, where a tricky emotion like love becomes "lar" (the wonderful "My Lar") or "lubb" (2012's "Save Your Lubb"), and singer-songwriter introspection is softened with odd, very British humour.
Jenkins rummages through pop history with the meticulousness you'd expect from a former cratedigger. Ode to driving "Speed" is equal parts Kraftwerk and Gary Numan's "Cars"; the verse of "Get To The Heart Of It" has a Ryuichi Sakamoto flavour. The album's spry, shimmering guitars suggest ears tuned to West or South Africa, though they could just as easily have been cribbed from Paul Simon's Graceland. "Peep Hole" has shades of Joni Mitchell circa Dog Eat Dog—not her most celebrated period, but Jenkins comes across as a fan of the obscure.
Loop The Loop is more than a slick homage, though. Jenkins weaves these styles into a detailed and diverse tapestry, spanning from the jaunty ("Self Capering") to the almost-gloomy ("Unless"), and not without its share of killer solos (violin on "My Lar," dampened piano on "Get To The Heart Of It"). The album sags towards the end—"Palm 2" and "FoYoC" don't say much that hasn't already been said. But whatever Loop The Loop's flaws, Jenkins has definitely found his C, and he's justifiably pleased about it.
01. Dip Your Foot
03. My Lar
05. Self Capering
06. Never Is The Chance
08. Get To The Heart Of It
10. Peep Hole
11. Loop The Loop
12. It's No Spirit