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The debut album from Rob Davis, aka Bobsleigh Bob, is a densely atmospheric work, comprised of dark electronica that touches on ambient, chillwave and indietronica elements through its eight tracks and twenty-nine minute runtime. An intricate soundscape built atop ice cold synths and Davis’ distinctive baritone vocals, How to Measure a Coastline skilfully balances a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks, gifting the record a spontaneous, wandering quality that works in its favour throughout.
This is an album that deserves a quality set of headphones in order to appreciate the immersive experience that Bobsleigh Bob has designed, with the tone immediately set on a stirring opening instrumental that recalls the recent work of Kieran Hebden, before the singer’s weathered baritone kicks in on ‘From The Sea’ to vividly compliment its frosty keyboard backing. Like the majority of tracks on Coastline, there are subtle elements working in the background throughout which lend these tracks an extra layer of sonic depth (all the more impressive when you account for the album being produced almost totally through Ableton software).
‘Paint Marks’ sounds like a potential second single with its heightened tempo and enrapturing blend of melancholy and melody, before lead single and centrepiece ‘Civil Twilight’ takes over on the best track of this project. The single stood out when I first heard it in mid-March for perfectly encapsulating Bob’s downtempo hybrid of indie and electronica, and it makes for an assured centrepiece here, as well as the ultimate example of Bob’s songwriting to date, with a lowkey, beguiling hook in its chorus that you’ll find yourself drawn back to. ‘Twilight’, like ‘Sea’ and ‘Paint Marks’ before it, is surprising with its catchiness when contrasted with the pitch-black synths that lay its foundations.
As the first song written for Coastline, ‘Twine’ is a slow burn that puts its vocalist front and centre, eventually coming to life at the halfway mark when its percussion kicks in, but at six minutes long, it’s perhaps guilty of being the only cut here that asks for too much patience in its build. Concluding instrumental twins ‘A Quick Fix’ and ‘Avast’ make for an alluring closing pair though, with their friendly synths and accessible electronica vibes casting my mind to peak DNTEL—in fact, think Matt Berninger produced by Jimmy Tamborello and you’ll get a pretty good idea of Coastline‘s entire aesthetic.
Those are pretty good comparisons to be courting on a debut release for sure but make no mistake—Davis has tapped into his own distinct sound here, one that instantly establishes Bobsleigh Bob as an act to watch. Concise yet deceptively complex, How To Measure A Coastline is an effective opening statement for a new talent in the Irish electronic landscape.