Many have spoken about Kevin Richard Martin’s return as The Bug, and whilst true in a solo capacity, his work since The Bug’s last solo oeuvre, the criminally underrated Angels & Devils, is not to be understated.
In order for Martin to unleash the sort of nuclear blasts as The Bug, experimentation and sonic exploration is a dietary requirement to maintain some form of artistic sanity and earlier this year, we were treated to the Brussels-based producer’s glittery, ambient nightscapes on the re-score of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film, Solaris. Prior to this, there was the quite simply outstanding and very much overlooked collaboration with Berlin-based artist, Dis Fig, In Blue (which featured in our Top 50 Albums of 2020).
A further rewind saw The Bug team back up with Trinidadian dread poet, Roger Robinson as King Midas Sound to produce one of the records of 2019 in Solitude. True to form, Robinson provides the beautiful bookends to The Bug’s return, Fire, consisting of the opening drone shower, The Fourth Day, and the harrowing tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, The Missing.
In between Robinson’s sombre dispatches, Fire is filled with dread-scapes that swell and explode in downright fury. Ultimately, Fire is the sound of now, with The Bug enlisting all the usual suspects to extract despair from the deepest pits in what is a record that crystallises the rage and despondency many people experience today.
Calm and chaos have never been likely bedfellows, but on Fire, The Bug has flipped the script. Should we be surprised?
Of course not.
Following Robinson, grime veteran, Flowdan fires the first shots in this New World post-apocalyptic landscape with Pressure, as his rabid tirades emerge from Martin’s swarming drones. As usual, Flowdan just about steals the show later on with the machine gun ambush of Hammer and through the red mist with Bomb.
Featuring Irah’s gravelly baritone, Demon is a burning pit of trepidation with Martin reaching for the ‘tunnel sound’ from last year’s In Blue. On Vexed, Moor Mother continues to expand on the fear she brought to the table with Martin and Justin Broadrick on ZONAL’s Wrecked back in 2019 (“I told you to come from me/Y’all better run from me” and “I kick shit, I rip shit, I leave shit with no head”).
Clash and War are frenetic cuts that are every bit as intense as their respective namesakes. Kingston poet, Nazamba, unfurls an earthy brogue that towers over Martin’s bowel-juddering beats. So, too, with How bout dat, as FFSYTHO’s flow weaves perfectly between the buckling walls of sound.
Kicking against the carnival of hate that seemingly envelopes this world, on Fuck Off Logan_Olm bites back, and what a bite it is. Direct, sharp and piercing the bone. In many ways, Fuck Off is the perfect representation of Fire.
The Bug’s listenership has always consisted of that cross-over between metal heads, grime and dancehall lifers, hip-hop aficionados, and experimental noodlers, that’s the barometer of defining something special; people from different backgrounds and experiences being summoned and intoxicated by the same piece of art.
That’s essentially how one can define soul and that’s what The Bug produces. As vehemently irate and ear-splitting as it is, when you strip it all back, this is soul music and on Fire, once again Martin’s creations resonate in the deepest way possible.
The Bug’s Fire is out now via Ninja Tune. Purchase from Bandcamp.