Icelandic electronic producer Stephan Stephenson (aka President Bongo) is most likely known to many readers as a founding member of GusGus, the collective he spent 20 years with before going his own way in 2015 with his debut solo album ‘Serengeti’.
These days, Stephenson’s engaged in what’s easily his most ambitious and sprawling project yet, with his ongoing ‘Les Adventures de President Bongo’ series, which sees him primarily adopting the roles of writer and artistic director in collaboration with a constantly changing cast of artists, eventually planned to emerge as a series of 24 albums over a period of seven years.
While the two previous volumes have seen Stephenson collaborating with indie-pop band Tilbury and composer Högni Egilsson, this third volume ‘Quadrantes’ sees him working with Ottar Sæmundssen to fashion a travelogue designed to act as an independent sequel to ‘Serengeti’. As the title hints, the hour running length here is split up into four tracks or ‘quadrants’, each clocking in at precisely 15 minutes.
Each quadrant has then been filled with a variety of different elements all ‘ticking away’ at different speeds, in order to evoke the sense of numerous individuals all occupying the same space but engaged in their own separate activities. In the case of opening track ‘1° Quadrante’ the results are widescreen and gentle as softly flickering electronics merge with brooding bowed instrumentation and loosely wandering bass tones, before rattling percussion begins to emerge into focus, the massed textures swelling into a crescendo before slow kickdrums arrive, their after-echoes booming through the mix as they move at crawling pace.
‘2° Quadrante’ sees Eastern-tinged instrumentation giving way to bright layers of glittering electronics and pinprick percussion, before muscular 4/4 techno rhythms launch forth against flexing electro synths and tapped-out percussion, the sheeny and refined surfaces evoking the Kompakt label, in what’s easily the most dancefloor-poised offering here. ‘3° Quadrante’ meanwhile veers off in a different direction entirely as a spoken vocal intoning a stream of conscious list of different human emotional states creates the sense of many separate internal monologues going on in parallel with one another against a background wash of sampled environmental sounds that suggests a park full of different people, all engaged in their separate activities.
Finally, ‘4° Quadrante’ reintroduces the streamlined 4/4 techno rhythms, closing this album with an elegantly unhurried glide through rippling electro arpeggios and flashes of melodic colour that ends in a gaseous wash of droning ambience. If the remaining adventures of President Bongo prove to be as satisfying as ‘Quadrantes’ is, we’re in for a serious treat.