The independent music world is spilling over with “One Man/Woman Artists,” those crafty technicians following in the footsteps of Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder (among countless others) in creating albums virtually by themselves. Though Oklahoma’s Mike Bodulow is such an artist himself, his style of solo music stands apart: he specifically creates “cinematic loops” that he’s able to reproduce and perform live with a loop station. “This limits some song structures, but leads the listener on a unique journey with limited transitions and changes involving one instrument at a time.” His newest release utilizing this unique musical style is called Foretold and Forgotten.
Bodulow himself walks us through his concept: “My music is a take on instrumental post-rock/post-metal, but with the twist of needing to be performed by a single person with a loop station. Therefore, it avoids the standard ‘build-up to crescendo and breakdown, then back up to crescendo’ style of post-rock.” Bodulow says he generally dislikes repetition in music and is more of a progressive post-metal fan. His background playing bass in three-piece bands helped him figure out how to allow his bass to “sing” while matching the melody and drums. For this album Bodulow handled all writing, recording, mixing and mastering.
“Before the World Moved On” is based on a three-chord piano motif that repeats, though the looping was not at first obvious to me. Bodulow then introduces both reverb-drenched synth counter-melodies and what sounds like an amplified acoustic guitar with various effects. Halfway into the track, the piano drops out and the guitar takes over completely, followed by the first appearance of Bodulow’s bass playing along with digital drums. Unlike the first half, the guitar now acts as a “base” over which Bodulow improvises on piano. Since Bodulow mentioned it, some of the fun for me is figuring out whether he really can play a track like this live, by himself. He can certainly get close, though I think he’s taken advantage of the recording process to stretch his improvisatory skills a bit more.
“Cybercats on the Prowl” is based on a substantial repeating synth melody, slowly joined by Bodulow’s smooth bass and double-time, slightly muted electric guitar chording. For a while this track is essentially a chamber piece of keyboards, bass and electric guitar, dreamy and hypnotic. The second half becomes almost hallucinatory as the synth melody switches to playing backward.
The structure of “When Darkness Brings Forth New Friends” really leans on Bodulow’s affinity for the bass guitar, using a deep and musically creative motif to build the opening section. The track proper kicks in with that same melody bathed in thick fuzz, with some of Bodulow’s hardest rocking solo guitar yet. Most of this track feels full and majestic, while essentially aping the stripped-down dynamics of a prog-based rock trio like Rush.
“From Darkness to Dystopia” is literally a one-minute linking track to the next full composition, “Near-Future Dystopia (ft. the abyss inside us).” This track goes all-out in its embrace of dark, metallic prog. The drums are triple time and the guitars play rapid-fire riffs worthy of Metallica at their most intense. However, the music overall has more of a cinematic, orchestral quality than speed metal. The second half upends the arrangement completely, becoming more of a rumination for bass and digital-delay guitar that feels like it’s being played underwater. The drums are credited to “the abyss inside us.”
“When Did Reality Become a Rare Condition?” continues the style from the previous track, with layers of echo on the backing guitar track and free soloing over the top. Though Bodulow says he doesn’t care for standard song tropes, his own style clearly calls for a total changeup halfway through, as he once again introduces new melodies and arrangements in the middle, this time with a prog-y construct that feels Middle Eastern. The counterpoint melodies on the bass and low-end overdubs are always on point. “When You Love a Robot and it Doesn’t Love You Back” perhaps fittingly recalls “Love’s Theme” from the Midnight Express soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder. (There’s a pretty obvious splice at 3:47 though. Ouch!)
“Little Prelude in A” introduces a nice-sounding vibes patch, playing an arpeggiated melody that leads directly into the final track “Watching Your Memories Fade Away” which owes a bit to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. You can imagine a part of that composition on repeat, over which Bodulow plays a last round of guitar variations, with ace drums, bass and vibes to fill out the rest.
It’s always exciting to discover an artist taking a new approach to creating music, while using tools and traditions that are familiar to the ear. An engaging, enveloping work with lots of beautiful melodies to savor!