Even though I’ve never ventured within, I feel I already know the vibe of Edinburgh’s Paradise Palms venue well enough through the release of their five previous Bonnie Tropical compilations. Sure, as night follows day, a 6 will follow 5 and it might well be the most eclectic and charismatic collection yet in a strong field of charismatic, eclectic challengers.
It all kicks off with the gloriously unsubtle ‘Golden Turtle’ by T_A_M where the mechanical whirring of the drum tracks at the centre of the mix is offset by the sweetly tonal synths which seem to bounce off each other as they funnel in the same, wistful direction.
Following this, the live-sounding drums that introduce ‘Euphoria Comes’ by duo Numbers Are Futile are like a slap in the face. The pulsating bassline and buried vocals bear enough of a passing resemblance to the funkier outputs of Bauhaus that it deserves comment but there’s such an overall frenetic energy going on here that it would cheapen it to compare it to just one thing.
My first thought when hearing ‘Make Kin’ by Nightshift was that you could mix the intro into the Mission:Impossible theme but it develops into something you could mix into any Fun Boy Three record. Somehow, amongst this, there are enough differing elements to see it through.
Aberdonians, Aberdreamin (see what they did there?) and their track, ‘Carrier’ is a bit of a highlight. Balancing dreamy seaward sounds with an occasional galloping electro rhythm, theirs is one of the names on this compilation worth committing to your memory.
‘Quick Gloss’ by Mystery Season exists in a universe where dreampop meets a sort of warped version of full-on eighties pop. Droning pads meld with a slapped and picked bassline straight out of a Level 42 song in a form of fusion you never knew you needed.
Despite a title suggesting some manner of bluegrass flavour, ‘Georgia Keep Me Vital’ by Ravelston is an almost ghostly sandwich of funky bass lines and stabby scratches cast across ethereal soundscapes and would, in fact, work best in a packed bar before 7PM.
‘Congo Cave Crack (What The F__k Cut)’ by Stockholm Syndrome AU is a moody, low-key rumbler while ‘Think Tank’ by U Diddy is a more uplifting track modal track driven by rolling rhythms. That said, the two tracks probably go together better than any other two on the album.
I’ve no idea what the title refers to but ‘Neek’ by Nina Stanger & Ritchie Muir enters the most interesting territory here. From the rolling, almost syncopated snares being mashed through all sorts of envelope filters to the chirping yet enormous synths that chime in throughout, there’s no denying the obvious influence of Aphex Twin.
The order of tracks on a compilation is more important than you may think and ‘Sooakxa’ by Hexagonal Water Trace signifies that we’ve moved to beyond 10PM. However, it doesn’t sacrifice tuneage and nuance for the sake of banging the bang. The pounding bass kicks are shorn of a lot of the attack in their individual kicks, and this manages to turn a high BPM bass-kick heavy track into something decidedly mellow.
There’s something indecisive about ‘Still Free’ by Vardi (ft Paix) but I like that and it’s the closest thing to a theme that Bonnie Tropical records have. Never committing to a trouser-dropping one-more-tune-style rush of beat carnage, it keeps all modal sensibilities firmly at the forefront and there are plenty of samples or what sounds like a shamisen or a sitar for extra dreaminess. The indecisive feeling is expanded on with ‘oscB / PHR0ST’ by KNGHT which feels like a sentient tune changing its own mind about what it wants to do. ‘Limbo’ by Ku-Ro is the necessary drop in tempo required and a welcome increase in the number of human voices heard.
‘Unusual’ by ona:v has a playful swing with staccato key sounds poking in around its simple 909 beat. However, it’s when the beat recedes, and the big bass pads marry unadulterated with the chiming sounds that the track comes into its own and becomes something slightly more hopeful than groovy.
The whole collection is rounded off by ‘Leanne’ by Neil Cruickshank. I’ve known plenty of Leannes in my time but none of them conjured up such a bewildering meeting of overlapping sounds. The rhythmic elements and the melodic elements both sound like they’re being made by some form of jar being hit with something. This leaves an overall sound somewhere between percussion and melody that doesn’t sit within either of those two realms.
Given the Bonnie Tropical compilations that already exist, this sixth instalment would form a better jumping off point than any of its predecessors. Talking of its predecessors, while they gave me a vibe for the venue that curates these compilations, it’s this particular collection that has me prepared to fork out the fare to get the 900 bus to Edinburgh.