Label boss Steve Bug delivers his first solo album in eight years
Poker Flat head Steve Bug serves up his first album since 2018's Langenberg collab Paradise Sold, and his first solo full-length since 2012's Noir. It's fair to say, then, that this album is one that (for once) genuinely has been "hotly anticipated" – and the good news is, it was worth the wait.
It might not be quite what you were expecting, though. Poker Flat as a label have taken a far housier direction over the past few years, but Never Ending Winding Roads finds the label boss firmly in minimal territory pretty much throughout – a reflection, perhaps, of the circumstances of its creation. Bug made the album amost entirely during lockdown, which might explain the sparse, introspective feel that haunts many of the tracks.
Enforced detatchment from the club scene has doubtless played its part, too: as Bug himself says, "My mindset when making Never Ending Winding Roads was completely different to any other project I have embarked on. I didn’t have to tour, and instead could focus 100% on writing music without having the dancefloor as a constant influence." Don't get it twisted, though: that's not to say the tracks here aren't floor-friendly, it's just that you're talking more eyes wide shut at 4am than peaktime communal energy rush.
The album opens with Ludic Loops, a defiantly stripped-back drums-n-synths concoction that's followed by A Conscious Machine with its stuttered beats, proggy lead and ominous bass growl. As we move on through the album we're treated to a variety of flavours – deep house on Locked Away In My Head and The Awakening, electro on Electro Harmonix, melodic vibes on Mountains and (best of all, to these ears) dubwise stylings on Yellow Snake and Confidence Dub. Yet somehow it all hangs together remarkably coherently – an unexpected benefit, perhaps, of the album being produced in slightly constricted circumstances, with little scope for bringing in guests or flitting from studio to studio.
Or perhaps it's just because what all the tracks share is a very stripped-back sound palette, and when it comes to the doing more with less school of production – when it comes to teasing musicality, warmth and groove out of just a drum machine rhythm and a handful of keyboard sounds – there are few that can touch the man!
Never Ending Winding Roads isn't just an album that's been highly anticipated – it's also one that demands your attention now it's finally here. This isn't pop radio fodder, and unless you're fully tuned-in it can all start to wash over you a little too easily. But really sit and listen, you'll find yourself engaed from start to finish.
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 13 November
Review Score: 8