Axel Boman – LUZ/Quest For Fire
When Sweden’s Axel Boman is not busy making music out of gamma radiation, he’s putting out a constant stream of EPs and singles that continue to stretch his house productions toward increasingly odd places. In particular, Boman is a fan of defying the norms of releasing music, from unleashing 13 minute deep house dioramas to entire vinyls of locked groove samples. Collapsing the conventions of what to release and how, Boman’s discography reads like a collection of curios, unsurprising for someone who betrays his strangeness by way of his wonky house ideations. In case it wasn’t apparent, albums aren’t really Boman’s forte. After releasing his debut nine years ago, another album didn’t seem high up on his list of priorities. Making up for lost time, his next venture into the realm of LPs arrives as two nine track albums packaged as one, a one-two-punch of the individual and vaguely related LUZ and Quest For Fire.
It makes sense that the multi-album drop as told by Arca should appeal to Boman; it allows him, in the words of writer and project collaborator Erik Lavesson, “to create a kind of expanded universe.” On LUZ, Boman ropes in a number of collaborators. BHUKA features Off The Meds vocalist Kamohelo who brings his Zulu patois to a smooth and loungey house beat full of spacey synths and atmospherics. Nowhere Good with Bella Boo takes a laid back, downtempo approach while Out Sailing with Man Tear and Inre Frid is an outré sensual, syrupy slowburner which touches of late night R&B. On the humid and jazzy ‘Atra, Boman enters baile funk / jungle house with a brilliant turn from saxophonist Kristian Harborg. LUZ closes with Hold On, an introspective and nostalgic melodic house cut that could pass for WhoMadeWho. By the time nine tracks have passed, the sheer breadth of styles that Boman has touched on is expansive, yet LUZ is held together by his inherently strange point of view. He approaches house music as a sound designer, orchestrating its basic elements in ways that allow for a distinct freshness. There’s also a slight sense of humour at play here, particularly when Boman finds himself riffing off of popular sounds as with the tongue-in-cheek sentimentality of Hold On or when he allows his weirdness to take the lead as it does on Out Sailing.
Where LUZ is more a collection of grooves and jams, Quest For Fire dives into something more narrative driven… sort of. The album is somehow connected to a short absurdist story by Lavesson’s recounting a fictional remaking of the 1981caveman movie Quest For Fire which ends in global chaos. Though the conceptual ties between Lavesson’s story and the actual music is a touch ambiguous, it does help Quest For Fire appear a lot more streamlined than LUZ, with Boman finding motifs in earthy, tribal house drum rhythms and touches of disco funk. On Sottopassaggio feat. Miljon, a funk bassline grooves above propulsive baile drum beats while the end of Roman Plumbing interpolates tribal rhythms with electronics. There’s a much darker tonality to Quest For Fire, from the prickly acid squelch of Cacti Is Plural to the techno sensibilities of tracks like Les Lèvres Rouges and Jeremy Irons. The latter is a standout across both LUZ and Quest For Fire, a sledgehammering techno behemoth that weaves in clipped samples Boman’s disco and tribal influences with a walloping four on the floor and rattling backbeats. Quest For Fire delivers the most designed moments across the two LPs. One Two is a garage microhouse hybrid full of vibrating sub bass and sweeping ambient strokes, while the top half of Roman Plumbing pairs Harborg’s improvised jazz sax with washes of drones. The design on Stone Age Jazz is beautiful, layers of effervescent and dreamy synths float around space as a gently strummed guitar riff loops in and out.
While LUZ and Quest For Fire do find some common language between them, they’re two vastly different bodies of work. Objectively, Quest For Fire delivers a stronger sense of direction and design from Boman compared to the more frivolous LUZ, though LUZ is ostensibly the more outright fun of the two. The double release doesn’t say much in terms of a complete body of work, though that’s likely beside the point. What it is above all else is a playground for Boman, affording him the time and space to explore his exhaustive range of ideas, most of which are quite remarkable.
Listen to Jeremy Irons from LUZ/Quest For Love below.
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