The figure on the cover of Bambara‘s new EP Love On My Mind is vocalist Reid Bateh, recognizable for his rock-star good looks, bleakly compelling short-story narratives and a wild vocal presence like that of The Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce. On albums like 2018’s Shadow On Everything and 2020’s Stray, Bateh tied the group’s ominously driving post-punk songs together with intertwined narratives of incestuous small towns populated by pyromaniacs and psychopaths, uncovering the seedy underbelly of Americana through music in a manner similar to how David Lynch does with film.
Love on My Mind, the group’s new six-song EP, doesn’t have the same ambitious narrative scope as those two albums, pulling back from a broad-scale conceptual arc in favor of a set of standalone songs that nonetheless sound impeccably sequenced when heard next to one another. It’s a more intimate but determined version of Bambara, one driven by the noble purpose of simply writing the best possible music they could during lockdown. It’s also a version of the band that finds them joined by a few friends contributing to the overall product, including Public Practice’s Drew Citron and Frigs’ Bria Salmena. But even in the context of a Bambara release without a loftier conceptual aim to drive it, Love on My Mind contains some of the group’s most texturally rich arrangements to date.
The immersive, gothic “Slither in the Rain” is Bambara gone duskily atmospheric, riding a wave of punk-blues twang and ambient drone, beginning the record in a manner similar to how Swarm’s “Miracle” did, where “Mythic Love” carries more of an urgent cowpunk strut. Throughout Love on My Mind, Bambara continue to build on their signature sound with richer arrangements and subtle new elements, almost all of these songs dripping with shimmering yet austere synthesizers. Or sometimes it’s just the songwriting itself, like on “Feelin’ Like a Funeral,” which rises up into a powerfully immediate chorus, direct but not trite, catchy but not cliche. It’s as substantial as an EP can be, with all the elements in place for what could be a big step forward.
Label: Wharf Cat
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.