Randomising the record collection #7: 808 State – Bombadin

#4804 – 808 State – Bombadin
(CD single, 1994) (Discogs tracklisting)

07 808 state

Millennials might find this hard to grasp, but in pre-internet days, the easiest way of listening to a lot of new music was simply to buy it. I’m therefore guessing that a goodly chunk of this single’s first week sales came from punters finding it on the new release racks at their local chain store – probably at a promotional discount price – and thinking: hmm, wonder what the new 808 State sounds like. That would have been enough to push it into the charts at 67, from where it dropped to 85 before disappearing into the void (and the bargain bins thereafter).

Neither “Bombadin” nor “Marathon” sound remotely like anything I remember 808 State recording before, or since. There’s nothing to link them to the outfit’s best remembered hits: “Pacific”, “Cubik”, “In Yer Face”. You could see this either a sign of strength (flexibility, willingness to try out new ideas), or weakness (lack of character, susceptibility to prevailing trends).

The music does sounds like 1994, though. The radio-length Barta Edit immediately puts me in mind of The Grid’s “Swamp Thing” and “Texas Cowboys” from the same year: a dinky piece of fluff, surprisingly lightweight by 808 State’s standards, with a daft little chant that sticks in the memory after the first listen. Its ideas are put to more satisfying use on the Original Quica mix, whose rhythms feel more Latino, possibly inspired by Jingo’s “Candido” from 1979.

“Marathon” mines similar territory, but with more relentless intensity; there’s a wobbly acidic didgeridoo, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Leftfield or Underworld track, coupled with muffled background shrieks. It’s all a bit too thickly piled on, though, at the expense of light, shade and progression. This gets more problematic on the Original 2/4 Pub Mix, which doubles up the drumbeats, as its title suggests. Frankly, it was a slog to get through on a Monday afternoon. I shouldn’t have started clock-watching the CD display; it only prolonged the discomfort.

Even on a Monday afternoon, it doesn’t usually take much for dance music to make me wiggle, twitch and grin – but this single left me motionless and poker-faced. Back into the racks it goes, then.

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