Bis. Return to Central


As a young teenager, I was always interested in finding different styles and sounds. In middle school for example, when my friends were getting into punk rock, I turned my ear towards industrial music. From there, industrial turned me towards dance music. However, I never left punk rock or grunge or whatever it was we were listening to behind. My attention was waived between different genres at all time and I kept my favorites close. It wasn’t until the summer in between 8th and 9th grade that I was introduced to Bis.

At the time, I was listening to a lot of Gary Numan. There was somewhat of a underground buzz concerning him because he returned with an industrial sound, moving away from his signature minimal electronic, electro funk sound. And with regained interest, a bunch of compilations came out. One of them being Random (1997), a tribute album compiled of electronic based artists and Bis was one of them. Their version of We Are So Fragile struck a chord that left me impressed and eager for more. Later on that summer, my friend and I decided to take a trip to North Miami Beach and visit a little shop called Blue Note Records.

Bis. John Disco, Manda Rin, SciFi Steven

Bis. John Disco, Manda Rin, SciFi Steven

If you know Blue Note Records, or have heard of it at least, they literally had everything and anything you can think of. At this time, the store was the whole strip mall portion. Three stores connected, one room full of hip hop/soul/r’n’b, another full of rock’n’roll, and another full of beautifully organized jazz and classical. Believe me, this was beyond a record collector’s dream. Our visit was to just grab a few records and go back home. But during our visit, I started talking to the nice lady who worked there. I don’t remember her name, but you can tell that she knew what was in the collection and knew what was good. She was top notch on everything. During our discussion, I mentioned that I was a bass player. She asked how old I was, 15 I answered. “Oh, you should check out this band,” she said while searching for New Transistor Heroes (1997). “They’re kids around your age, from Scotland. I think you’d like this.” As I stared at the cover and generally gained interest, I had to put it down. “I’d love to, but I don’t have enough money for this.” What a horrible but true answer! At that time, quantity trumped quality especially at 15 with about $20 in your hands. But I always remembered that moment, and when I was finally able to purchase a copy, I did.

Fast forward through time… every release I was able to get my hands on I did. My friends began enjoying their songs. The idea of a new band came up, and we loosely modeled ourselves around their sound, especially the EP Intendo (1998) and their second album Social Dancing (1999). Punk rock power pop with keyboards. We were at Best Buy one day, my friend Anthony goes through the CDs, and comes up with Return to Central (2001). Quite excited about this release, he purchased it and upon first listen we all pretty much said the same thing… What the Fuck!? Our major influence turned completely electronic! Which isn’t a bad thing, we just didn’t know what we were listening to the first time around. It took a few spins, a few appropriate situations, and a couple of remixes for this album to really strike a nerve much harder than their previous releases. There are some songs and some albums that can’t be heard all the time, there’s specific situations where it sounds better than ever, certain moods that help boost the experience. And at the time, we were going out almost every night to a different club to dance like maniacs. It was nice to hear something familiar but it was nice to hear these songs being played extremely loud!

Return to Central (2001)

Return to Central (2001)

Return to Central was the future. Bis grew from album to album, and you can hear the steps within every song. I’ll even be brave enough to say that they captured the electroclash sound of the late 90s – early 2000s and gave it structure. A few of my favorite songs; “Chicago”, “Protection”, “Robotic (Just Last Week)” are all extremely danceable and represent the past dance influences with ease. Other favorites like “We’re Complicated”, “The End Starts Today”, and “What You’re Afraid Of” play host to their traditional sound but matured. “A Portrait from Space”, the albums closing track, is a fantastic piece of atmospheric/ambient space music. And then you can hear it all over again. Intermission tracks, “Black Pepper” and “Metal Box”, gave hints towards what brothers SciFi Steven and John Disco would do after the band’s breakup. They had a project called Dirty Hospital. While Manada Rin returned to their earlier electro pop punk sound on her solo album “My DNA” and electro band The Kitchen. And then in between all that, they tried a new band called Data Panik. All of which is fantastic stuff with a signature sound all returning to the beginning of Bis.

This is probably the easiest release by Bis to listen to. Catchy hooks, beats, and rhythms that’ll keep you humming along. The remixes and bonus tracks from this period is also just as good as the album. And for once, thankfully, the remixes are not dated! There’s a lot of remixes out there that are slapped onto singles and EPs that are insane time capsules of that specific time, and it hurts sometimes to even listen to. For any fan of dance music, any fan of electronic music, pop music, it’s all thrown in this one album. Want an adult, sophisticated sound? Pick up this album… and its EP, Plastique Nouveau on CD.


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Vinyl & Vino rating: 5 out of 5

We’re Complicated
Robotic (Just Last Week)

The band Bis – Official Website

The Dirty Pure Project