At this point, I think, Pär Boström needs no introduction. In terms of my own learning curve with the genre of dark ambient and all the related subgenres and crossovers and what-have-yous, I’ve come to decide that he is one of the top. Not only in terms of musical creation, an obviously important aspect, but also in terms of production, promotion, and creating a wider audience for the music in general. For those of you that might not be aware of him, either because you simply haven’t come across his work yet or you are new to the genre. Boström is the man behind such acts as Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast. He’s also, along with his sister, Åsa, the owner of Hypnagoga Press, a label and publishing company devoted to spreading the various messages and albums of dark ambient to the wider world. In short, Boström is an amazing guy and any music he puts out is worthy of attention. It came as a shock to me when, one day, I found a message from him asking if I would like to look over his newest project, Bonini Bulga, and write up a review for it. Naturally, I enthusiastically said yes. I wasn’t sure what I was in for but I felt as though I was in good hands with Boström.
The name of the first effort of “Bonini Bulga” is Sealed, a five track, twenty-nine-minute escapade through what I can describe as neither Kammarheit nor Cities Las Broadcast while being both. Bonini Bulga is softer, and subtler than Kammarheit but it’s more sinister and ritualistic than Cities Last Broadcast. Yet, it retains elements from both projects. I won’t call it a melding of the projects as that would be simplifying a very delicate piece of music. Utilizing loops, a few effects, and the synth (an instrument I have come to think is only second to the piano in creating music), Bonini Bulga manages to tell the listeners a dualistic, if not schizophrenic, tale of extraplanar travel and dimensional journeying. As with many projects, I am curious as the origin of the project name, until such a time as I figure it out though, I will have to speculate.
In the description you can read on the project’s Bandcamp page, Boström refers to both Bonini and Bulga, two separate entities that are used to create the music. Reading that after my first listen (I like having at least one cold listen before learning anything about the project) all my subsequent listens had the idea of duality and oppositional themes in mind. Being and unbeing, he called these two aspects, one the mask of the Hierophant (Bonini), and Bulga behind the mask of the Other. It’s heavily hinted that Bonini Bulga is the work of both Boströms and at least at the time I’m writing (I’ll correct it if I prove to be incorrect later) I will assume that.
Dark ambient projects, more so than any other genre, when created by two people, often suffer from a hybrid personality. Two different interpretations of themes and styles but melded together to create those said themes. It’s unusual, in my opinion, that dark ambient seems to suffer from this more than other genres. Though perhaps suffer is the wrong word. In either case, Bonini Bulga seems to be aware of this and instead of trying to hide it or cover it, they celebrate it and make it the center of the musical process. This, to me, makes the music I hear more honest, more exploratory, and more adventurous. Two narratives are woven together, each with its own personality and perspective, its own abilities and methods, to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
As I said before, Bonini Bulga is different, but not so different from the other projects we are familiar with from Boström. The music is subtle but sinister, never cresendoing into some climax or making overt points. The music allows the listener the freedom to explore the themes and decipher their meanings for themselves. The looping technique, one that I’m still unfamiliar with in general, is used to great effect. Different themes played over and over but with slight difference in pitch, tone, and sequence make the listener feel as though they are moving through some sort of barrier. Transcending the limits of reality, maybe.
The catabasis, the journey to the underworld (or another realm or reality) is a narrative frame used often and to great effect in dark ambient music. Some do it better than others, obviously, but Bonini Bulga does it well. The journey is personal but it’s also very religious in nature. The idea of becoming something greater, either mentally or metaphysically is at the center point of the story. the narrative revolves around the listener-protagonist moving through dimensions and from each dimension something must be taken and something must be left behind. Everything is done in terms of the Bonini/Bulga dichotomy. There is action and there is reaction, good and evil, light and dark, male and female, divine and mundane. Keeping that in mind, this album’s narrative is beautiful and unique. Of the minimalist dark ambient albums I’ve heard this year, this is definitely one of the better ones, but what could you expect from Boström.
Sealed is an excellent album, worth the time (less than half an hour) and the money. The music is excellent. It can act as background noise (though why would you ever want that?) or as a medium for a spiritual journey. It’s as entertaining as it is enlightening. Of the the three Boström projects, Cities Last Broadcast is still my favorite but Bonini Bulga is definitely good stuff.
Highlights: Each Named, Each with Six Wings, Becoming
For Fans Of: Kammarheit, Cities Last Broadcast, Dronny Darko
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- Each Named
- By A Higher Thought
- Each With Six Wings
- Sealed As One
Sealed was released through Hypnagoga Press on June 21st, 2017