BUNKR – Graveyard Orbit

[VLSI Records Ltd., 2021]

BUNKR is James Dean, a producer in Brighton, UK and co-founder of Cookshop. He’s previously recorded under the moniker, Lost Idol, and has released a couple EPs, and a debut album with a subsequent remix as BUNKR.

Despite the ominous title, the music here is pretty optimistic-sounding. Graveyard Orbit—a term for the area of space where satellites that have lived out their usefulness go to die—weaves thick, chunky bass lines, sparkling keys, shimmering synths, snappy drums, and heavily modulated sequences and symphonic waves of womping sound. It’s science fiction music to dance to.

The album opens with soft, ambient washes of synth, recalling vintage science fiction films. It picks up in intensity before giving way to more subdued, modulated keys and layers of atmospheric undertones. Like an overture for what follows, it sets the tone: you’ve begun your journey outward.

“Stargazing” is simply beautiful. It begins with gentle keys, bathed in vats of reverb (naturally!). Its drums build slowly, meter by meter, until the big turn in the song, where they start to pick up velocity into a meteoric, metronomic, driving force. By the time you’ve hit where this happens at about the three minute mark, you’re hooked. It’s an incredibly satisfying listen, and a highpoint in an album filled with many.

The title track and lead single bursts forth with lovely thumpy kick drums and percolating mid-range bloops. Dean has widened the stereo spread on the brushed hi-hat here, which allows it to playfully bounce along the listener’s ears while core of the song chugs along gleefully. It all paints a picture of an eagerness typically at odds with the idea of death. But perhaps to the satellite it’s not dying at all. Perhaps it’s escaping the prison of a lifetime of servitude; to the satellite, maybe it’s a joyous occasion. And so it dances its way out.

The mastery Dean shows on “Graveyard Orbit,” as well as on the entire album, is in his contrasting tones and timbres. The album feels full—carefully crafted and mixed with a deft precision. There are layers and layers here to unpack, and they’re easy to miss for the whole. That’s saying something. It underscores the cohesiveness of it all, the ease with which to let it all just wash over you as it unfolds. Like a lone object enveloped by the glittering of billions of stars in the vastness of space.

Listen to and purchase Graveyard Orbit on Bandcamp.

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