The Circle of Confusion of Tongues
(2018 - Melodic Revolution Records - USA)
A 4th album and part one of a trilogy planned out, by UK avant-garde funk/psychedelic/allsorts/art outfit Babal, who is Rob Williams (guitars/keyboards), Karen Langley (vocals/lyrics), and Jon Sharp (drums). Guest musicians include: Zoie Green (keyboards) and Ben Balsom (bass).
As a note of interest, 'The Glacier' EP is part 2A, and 'The Big Everything' EP is part 2B of this trilogy. Forthcoming as the completion is '(I'm Just a) Spirit in a Meat Suit', scheduled to be released in 2019.
Babal is one of those groups that listening to their music from a stereo (or any personal sound source) is quite an experience in itself, but seeing them perform live is yet another lift off to the stars, altogether. A view of the You Tube video link I supplied above will clue you in. First off, no question that Babal is an ever evolving group. If you listen to the catalog of their releases starting back in 1999 ('Collaborating with the Inevitable : Wise Children'), you have a more basic funk rock sound with only bits of the psychedelia, and 2012's 'Bread and Circuses' showcases Karen's vocal range, that approaches the Happy Rhodes world, while the compositions spread their wings exploring variety and dramatic presentations. With 'The Circle of Confusion of Tongues', the band has combined all their skills into a theatrical fusion of Lemon Kittens/Insane Clown Posse/Mother Gong/the haunting early atmosphere of Jefferson Airplane/some nods to King Crimson thanks to Rob Williams' guitar work/and even some shades of later period Martha and the Muffins (with a lower female vocal register).
Beginning with a trippy Frank Zappa styled funked out number called 'Teeth of the Universe' (a video of that is featured at the Bandcamp link provided above, where you can also buy all their music), the songs have a mission to reveal black holes, dangerous emotions, the grimness of many circumstances around the world, and the often ignored subject matter around the human spirit and little things that are happening that people just seem to miss. Some of the songs ('Monkey on my Back' - track 6) are like Nico fronting a doomsday post punk band, with exorcisms of Karen's voice going into Diamanda Galas territory. She has not only a giant stage presence, but a dynamic vocal skill that allows the music to be all it can be, and then some. 'The Foot High Guy' (track 7) will have you seeing 1980's cold wave styling in the Siouxsie and the Banshees/ Danielle Dax arena. 'Skating on the Pond' (track 11) begins with cathedral organ, keeps that Nico melancholy, and allows a relaxed state of being for the listener. The beautiful song on the disc, among the more aggressive songs, that just circle you and rope you with impossible to ignore words and music.
Babal have an unending energy and desire to make important and much needed recordings. It is rare to have such a collection of musicians (Babal being fundamentally two people since inception - Karen and Rob) who have what is so strong a set of messages to tell the listeners, the world, and to make those words with the music so appealing and emotionally accurate. This is music that is alive and kicking, huffing and puffing, ready to blow your mind, and give you a great experience at the same time.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 20 - 2019