Marking the beginning of a musical venture distanced away from François Marry of ‘François & the Atlas Mountains’, Gerard Black formed Babe and nestled in with the perpetually sensational roster of artists at Moshi Moshi records. Apart from the francophile-friendly track ‘Trip Wire’ (a song specifically written in an attempt to befriend a bunch of newfound French pals), Black sets his sights high to produce a personal sound, utilising a palette of syncopated rhythms, ethereal electronic textures and twitchy guitar spasms.
Track number two on ‘Volery Flighty’ exhibits to us what Babe are all about. Emerging from a bed of dimmed lo-fi synths, the ‘Aerialist Barbette’ is roused by jazz-inspired guitar licks and bends while the falsetto cries of Black prance elegantly over the top. Providing an additional dimension, CHVRCHES leading lady Lauren Mayberry offers her endearing vocal talent to enhance this unorthodox groove. This jazzy motif threads through to the following track ‘Grotto’ as we hear the employment of a honky-tonk piano. To avoid sounding like a silent film composer, Black makes the sound his own by immersing the instrument in reverb and positioning it amongst a wave of minimalist percussive pops and twangs in 6/8 time. Additional honky tonk can also be heard on ‘Oft’ when Mayberry returns to provide another splendid vocal coating.
What you quickly begin to notice about the debut Babe effort is that they’re never too comfortable with embracing one particular influence. Throughout ‘Volery Flighty’, Black fidgets restlessly from genre to genre. Whilst on the mind-warping ‘Falling in the Apples’, samba-inspired percussive rhythms accompany Black’s warbling vocal line; the refreshingly upbeat ‘Tilt’ is littered with almost Seinfeld-esque bass lines and programmed choral vocal stutters. Although Black aspires for nonchalance by declaring “I’d give it all it all to be blithe”, it is indeed this lack of blitheness and his attention to detail which makes ‘Volery Flighty’ such an audible delight.
Black demonstrates his admiration for happy endings with ‘Bronco’ featuring at the end of the record as Babe’s most buoyant track. Kicking in with synthesised beams and summertime swagger, this track cavorts joyfully before meeting a carefully co-ordinated, Mayberry-infused, acappella arrangement. These components then reunite with tropical percussive elements and a buzz saw synth that cuts deep within the established melodies before elegantly fading in to the sunset.
Words: George Hemmati