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Hiide Johny Lamb , July 17th, 2019 08:10

Babii's debut on Death Waltz records is a smart record that bears repeated listening, finds Johny Lamb

Looking at the press release, the debut album by Margate’s BABii is a driven and ambitious response to a collapsing life. The record itself seems to underscore this emotional catalyst. But it is not self-pitying at all, rather it is an act of catharsis. As listeners we are used to – and fascinated by – the woe-soaked autobiographies of popular music artists, and we inscribe our own stories and traumas to them. This is, in part, the magic of song. ‘CARNiiVore’ gives us this in spades, but in a visceral and physical way. It’s clenched teeth and taught muscle manifest as a break-up song.

There will be inevitable comparisons to Grimes no doubt, but that does BABii a disservice. She doesn’t swim in the world of quirk and deliberate eccentricity that Grimes has. Rather, despite the whispering vocals and crystalline prettiness of the music, her songwriting is harder. There’s a curious brutality and pent up anger on display here, juxtaposed with a lightness of delivery and it’s pretty effective.

I’m really interested in the sounds BABii makes. There’s lots that sounds like tuned percussion, almost like steel pans (check ‘VOLCANO’ for this), which she blends with pads and wonky bass and gorgeous kick sounds, giving us a distinct sense of balanced frequency from top to bottom. In addition to this, she uses reverb very well indeed, which when using really large spaces is not as easy as it might sound (though I’ll confess a personal preference for drier music these days). The production overall is clever, thoughtful, and has enough sudden turns, singular events and gestures to avoid it feeling too locked to the grid.

This is a very smart record, and one that bears repeated listening. The emotional maturity and frank lyricism shine through the electronic sounds and idiosyncrasy of her style, and ultimately good songwriting finds a beautiful symbiosis of sound and text. Which, BABii here, has nailed (‘STRAY’ alone is strong evidence of this). I’m genuinely intrigued to see what she does next.