Installation by Gabriel Dawe
[Clone West Coast Series]
His work may not be as distinctive as that of say, Roman Flügel, but Boris Bunnik has done an admirable job of carving out a “Conforce sound.” What’s remarkable is that he’s done so precisely where it seemed unlikely: at the well-scavenged intersection of dub and Detroit. Night Time Activities Part 3 — Bunnik’s fourth record for his electro project Versalife — confirms that a similar feat is under way. Laced with spooky atmospherics, “After the Future” kicks off the A-side. It’s like a night-time visit to an empty aquarium, with back-lit tanks casting faint light and listless fish shadows flitting across hallway floors — wondrous and surreal. Perhaps this image springs to mind solely because of Drexciya and their aquatic mythology. After all, like Basic Channel and dub techno, it’s almost impossible to consider electro without Drexciya. And the four tracks presented here do have a lot in common with the Detroit duo’s work. Whatever the case, it’s an arresting opener, with none of its carefully woven pads or colorful, trembling synth notes sounding superfluous or misplaced.
“Electrostatic Discharge” ups the tempo quite a bit, and fittingly, reduces the focus on atmosphere. The melodies are more numerous and direct this time, racing into field and obscuring one another’s fading tails. Most notable, however, is the extremely subtle use of acid. The 303 is a versatile, powerful and oft-abused instrument. To hear it used in this fashion — slinking minutely at the bottom of the mix, barely noticeable — is refreshing. On the other side, the mildly discordant “Ultimatum” stumbles along with the help of bulky synth work and slow-phasing plastic snares. It has a slightly rough finish, a welcome contrast to the clean, cosmic tones that sail through the other three cuts. Lastly, the suitably intrigue-laden “Unsolved Mysteries” adds a measure of funk, but returns to the silken ambience of the A1. Throughout these four well-crafted tracks, there’s rarely a moment that, in terms of timbre, doesn’t sound familiar. Part 3 isn’t just Conforce-style melodies pinned to different percussion, but it’s close. For example, there’s a piping, organ-like sequence in “After the Future,” that has been recycled verbatim from Conforce’s “Lonely Run.” That’s not necessarily a complaint, as all the tracks are distinct, even if they do strongly evoke Drexciya. Whether he’s acting as Versalife or Conforce, Bunnik’s work is clearly about honing existing conventions, not smashing them.