For a certain type of music fan, the name Bola resonates with mystery and something approaching mythology. The reclusive Rochdale, England, native (AKA Darrell Fitton) is a legend among people who use the acronym IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) without snickering.
Rising in the mid-'90s out of the same northern British electronic-music scene as Autechre and Gescom, Bola joined forces with Skam Records, the enigmatic Manchester label famous for issuing collectible IDM holy grails.
Speaking of which, Bola's 1998 debut LP for Skam, Soup, is a gorgeous, insular piece of what used to be called "armchair techno." Translation: The music here is a transporting listen on headphones, its rhythms intended to make your brain wiggle more than they will your hips. Even when Bola drops some skewed hiphop beats ("W.I.K.," "Aguilla"), the results are incomparably elegant.
Soup is a profound specimen of patiently teased-out sound design, a Plutonian chill-out opus that's immune to time's erosive effects. Fyuti (2001) follows suit, but with even greater melodic development. With 2004's Gnayse, Bola injects more enigmatically looming orchestrations into his otherworldly excursions. And now Skam's reissuing (with three bonus cuts) the limited-edition 1999 vinyl release Shapes on CD, so fans can finally hear what for many is the missing piece in Bola's idiosyncratic sonic puzzle.
The prospect of seeing this mystery man perform live is overwhelming for those who've spent years scrutinizing Bola's records as if they were sacred texts. Kudos to Decibel for luring this fantastically gifted hermit out of his studio.