Monday, December 1, 2008

Bablicon - In a Different City

"When The Melody Maker (RIP, and good riddance) describes your debut album as "certainly the the worst record ever made", you know you must be doing something right. This is precisely what the now defunct music paper said of Bablicon's 'In a Different City' album, and believe me, they are doing very much right. It's not difficult to imagine why the present breed of inkie journos might find this difficult music – it certainly isn’t for the narrow-minded! Their free, jazzy approach owes more to Robert Wyatt or Sun Ra than anything from the Rock world. But the Bablicon sound encompasses much more: there are elements of prog, echoes of Stravinsky, of krautrock and Beefheart. This might all sound like a recipe for chaos, but Bablicon manage to seamlessly blend all these elements together, often mixing several styles within the same song, and the end result, as Douglas Wolk wrote in CMJ, "comes out composed like a flower arrangement".

Bablicon are a Chicago-based trio of multi-instrumentalists with adopted Magic Band-style pseudonyms. Blue Hawaii (real name Griffin Rodriguez) plays electric bass, melodica, electronics, upright bass, voice, piano, electric piano, oisac keyboards and tape effects. Rodriguez has performed with a diverse selection of musicians, including Stereolab, The Olivia Tremor Control, Jeff Parker and Mars Williams. He is also a member of Icy Demons, another experimental Chicago/Philly outfit, and has produced both the Need New Body albums. The Diminisher (born David McDonnell) plays electric piano, clarinet, alto, soprano and C melody saxophones, oboe, small baby horns, theremin twins, friendly bird tinkles, electric ghetto duck, electronics, tape manipulation, piano, woodwinds, alien organ transmitter and voice. He graduated from DePaul University with a B.A. in composition and frequently has his works performed in Chicago. He too has collaborated with musicians from many backgrounds, also including Need New Body, The Olivia Tremor Control, Japanese pop star Kahimi Karie and jazz legend Ken Nordine, and also now plays with the Icy Demons. Marta Tennae (aka Jeremy Barnes) plays drums, accordion, electronics, piano, little drum, organ, voice and electric consultant. Barnes is a self-taught musician, who has played in more bands than would normally be considered healthy, including Neutral Milk Hotel, the Gerbils and Guignol, as well as live stints with - amongst others - Pop-Off Tuesday and Broadcast. Jeremy is also now performing and recording as a one-man-band, under the name of 'A Hawk and a Hacksaw'."

Bablicon really ripped shit up. A unholy mixture of concrète electronics, Faustian cut-up, Zapp'ed instrumental prowess, full-on Fire Music freedom and Beefhartian convoluted structures. The group is dormant now, with members pursuing other interests (specially Barnes who has gained quite a bit of notoriety with A Hawk and a Hacksaw) but let's hope they reconvene again to make awesome shit like this. The other album will follow soon.

2 birds

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