It is hard to talk about Love On My Mind by Bambara without wanting to explore every song with surgical precision. There is so much to talk about and more importantly, there is so much to enjoy. The EP is rich, full of feeling and each song creates a lived-in experience that triggers an emotional response.
The EP’s sound is both exhilarating and intense, and throughout its 22-minute runtime Bambara transports you to their world, and what a world it turns out to be. They have managed to create their most ambitious and luscious effort to date, all wrapped up in six tightly written songs.
There is an argument that this is their best work to date, which is a bold statement considering the brilliance of their last album Stray. What gives Love On My Mind the edge is its tightrope walk of being both accessible and uncompromising. There is something for everyone on this EP and Bambara have achieved this without abandoning or sacrificing their identity.
Instead of sacrificing their identity, they have built on it and homed in on their renowned gothic, southern post-punk mash up. However, Love On My Mind transcends the barriers of those genres and becomes something new altogether.
It is abundantly clear from its opening moments that Love On My Mind is special. Opening with “Slither In The Rain,” an otherworldly and haunting introduction full of atmosphere and emotion. It grabs you immediately as twilight synths ripple and hazy instrumentation clambers beneath.
Bateh’s evocative vocals echo the song’s sentiment, bringing the cautionary tale to life as he effortlessly croons. It is truly something to behold, and in all honesty “Slither in the Rain” is one of the best openers I have heard in a long time, and it lends its thanks to the perfect balance Bambara have cultivated.
The fun does not stop there as Bambara gives you no time to breathe throughout the EP. “Mythic Love” picks up straight where “Slither…” left off. This rampant anthem is full of raucousness, passion, and gloom. It charges towards you, driven by a blues guitar rhythm that throttles, while the other instruments follow at a break-neck pace. The drums tumble and thump alongside the frenetic guitars, creating a musical stampede.
And while the song burns a hole in your ears, it slows during the pre-chorus, delivering brief moments of melody that are soft, solemn, and enchanting. Bateh’s poetic lyricism comes to life as he howls “This feeling, it’s a web unspun / It’s breaking the neck of a dove / It’s a gun between your eyes when you’re talking tough” and his conviction has the words cutting the skin, and sinking in.
What follows next are two songs that capture another side to Bambara, while adding a change of pace. “Birds” and “Point And Shoot” both deliver arresting moments but in a completely different way. “Birds” is tender, oozing heart and soul as Bateh’s lyrics and vocals exude longing and hurt.
Instrumentally “Birds” swirls with southern riffs and silky synths that loom in the background. But its standout moment is the chorus as the main guitar rhythm unravels with a mix of melodic sorrow and kinetic energy colliding with Bateh’s pained vocals.
“Point and Shoot’s” sound is spectral and slow-paced, with its liveliness found in its instrumental. Elastic guitars, thundering bass, hissing hi-hats and gentle, shimmering synths come together to create an ensemble worthy of the story told.
Afterwards Bambara return to what they are known for, anthems capable of starting fires, crushing bones, and leaving no eye dry. “Feelin’ Like a Funeral” is unflinching and features snarled storytelling, led by the opening crunch of a bass guitar.
It’s swiftly followed by a cascade of pounding drums and woozy guitar work. Instrumentally it is razor-sharp but bright, whereas lyrically it is full of grit. The song is somehow airy and venomous at the same time, and every time Bateh serenades “So the next time around, don’t go sounding the siren“, it feels like a gut punch.
The EP’s closing track “Little Wars” is the amalgamation of Bambara’s journey so far. It captures the band they were in the beginning, the band they continued to be and the band that they are now. The song itself is something from a film score, with its grand scale and brilliant execution worthy of the big screen.
Foreboding ambiance launches the finale alongside swooning vocals, and as the delicate western stylised instrumentation gradually builds it creates a slow-burning tension. It all comes to fruition as the song climaxes with spectacle and feeling, as Bateh’s vocals and the instrumental explode with blistering rawness one last time.
Love On My Mind is such an emotionally affective experience, and its darkness is full of heart-rending beauty. It features their best work to date and instrumentally it pushes Bambara’s boundaries while taking risks. Bateh’s genuine storytelling is profound and his ability to vividly weave words adds to the jewels in Bambara’s sun bleached, rusted, and fittingly spiked crown.
This is Bambara at their best and Love On My Mind is a must-hear body of work.
Bambara’s Love On My Mind is out now via Wharf Cat Records, stream it below and purchase it here.
Words by Jake Gould