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(48:09; Melodic Revolution Records)
I know I am way behind where I need to be when a band sends me their new album and I realize I have not yet reviewed the last one, so although the brand-new release from Babal is ‘Spirit In a Meat Suit’, I will get to that one in the next week or so. Here we have the second in ‘The Circle of Confusion of Tongues’ trilogy, following on from the 2018 album of the same name. This is a very different release from Babal, due in no small part to the serious health issues which have impacted both Karen and Rob in recent years. In 2019 the band had to cease performing and recording as singer Karen was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer which required many chemotherapy sessions and a stem cell transplant. Although she is in remission, she of course has to be very careful indeed with her health, and COVID 19 has seen both her and Rob spend a great deal of their time indoors. She has also been unable to sing, so Babal did what they have always done, moved on and tried something different. Along with drummer Jon Sharp, they wrote and developed an album full of instrumental material, visualizing them as if they were puppet shows on the radio. Helpfully, in the digipak there are a few lines against each song, saying what they were thinking of at the time, and what the music is supposed to be working with, all of which makes interesting reading. For example, the description for opener “Gundy” starts with “Space age fossils hover over Devon...” seems like my home county is a theme this week. Babal have always been pushing boundaries, with albums moving in different directions, so releasing something which is instrumental makes total sense. Jon never settles into patterns but is always looking for different ways to move the sound and plays around the kit as opposed to any standard fashion, while Rob throws in multiple intermingling guitar lines when the time is right, or some poignant bass. Bill Nelson is still very much an influence, and the impression is much more of art rock than “straight” regressive progressive. It is incredibly layered, as one could well expect from musicians going stir crazy indoors, but it is never over the top and there is still plenty of room and space within the arrangements. Having the drums to the front of the mix also provides cut through and chops the music so there is never the risk of it becoming too over the top. Unable to have the focal point which is Karen, the band have instead shifted their music in a way which is somehow both complex and simplistic at the same time, the result being something that is incredibly enjoyable, and while immediate also pays repeated listening.
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