Spirit In A Meat Suit
(2021 - Melodic Revolution Records - USA)
The tone starts out with a deeply mystical (even spiritual) piece, ever so gleaming with details, perfectly placed instrumentation, and a vocal performance that has Karen at the top of her game. After listening to dozens (I think all) of Babal's output, I can boldly say that this release takes the band to even loftier heights. Now that is saying something, after claiming this to be one of my favorite groups in operation today. I was instantly attracted to them for the fact not only for the versatility of their sound and composing skills, but each of them are highly gifted at their craft, and Karen's lyrical talent is superb. She writes with a sharp tongue and full blown honesty, often exposing crimes against humanity, topics of deceit, much needed outing about issues that often get swept under the rug by both the toxic greed machine and even the apathetic herd of lame humans who keep allowing their noses to be hooked and led to the slaughterhouse.
Rob is amazing with his compositional framework and guitar talents. This album has a WOW factor that not one music loving person could ignore. In fact, it is a total masterpiece! Now I said it! The title cut is amazing with a cutting slice of Roman Empire atmosphere, perk and parody, time changes, nomadic contrast with hyper focus, a bit of reverence for Frank Zappa, and a punch that leaves a lump in your throat. Karen blends a Annie Lennox (at her most ambitious) with Laurie Anderson and Toyah Wilcox, yet Langley carries her own stamp as a one of a kind vocalist and lyricist. She is more daring, both profound and often edgy with her acrobatic vocals. And I have said it before about Rob Williams, and his immaculate guitar skills (he sums up a patchwork of Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson, Frank Zappa, Mike Keneally, oh there are many) as he has his own stamp and ability to create what he chooses to make the music into the shape he imagines it to be. He has done all instrumental works that rival the best. The musicians making this album happen are : Karen Langley - vocals , arrangements/ Rob Williams - Guitars, guitar synth, bass, programming/ and Jon Sharp - Drums. Guest Artistes (Track 3) are Zoie Green - Keyboards/ and Ben Balsom - Bass. You will notice a good deal more keyboard work on this album which shows Williams as a multi-instrumentalist, and a great one at both guitar, bass, and keys. All songs composed by Rob Williams and Karen Langley, and album was released released March 25, 2021. This is in fact the final act of a long planned trilogy of the 'Circle Of Confusion Of Tongues' series.What a grand way to complete the project.
From haunted, to sharpened stone, in distinction to heavy messages, vertical prophetic poetry, narrative penetration, and a progressive (in all it's finest expression) format that rattles the cage and shakes the foundation you think you stand on. Watch out! The edge may crumble out from under the cliff you stand on. If I have given you the idea that this is an all dark and foreboding album, let us dispel that notion. Pieces like 'Isis' (track #6) has both an uplifting feel and a barbed vocal delivery from Langley. In an all amazing recording, Babal place themselves on the highest mountain of important listening for people. Your purchase will be rewarded with a huge globe of influences (including ancestral - check out track #7 - 'Kraken Kommandant') that showcase the musicians and their full abilities. By the way, 'Kraken Kommandant' allows Karen to blow it out with an amalgamation of audacious and an impossibly fantastic transmission. Matter of fact, this is consistent throughout. In 'Remember The Dead' there are more definitive spots than one can imagine. Words "The most land anyone owns, is the cradle of dirt they end up in" just strike a chord that never leaves you. With music ranging from 'Sunday All Over The World'/Crimson, wall of sound, Martha & The Muffins at their deepest and most gnarly, and experimental avant-pop/rock somewhere in the realms of outland, you will never be bored, even after countless hearings. Just to give readers a sneak peak inside the minds of the creators of this jewel, I spoke with both Karen and Rob and got quotes about the process of making this album. Karen said it from the richest regions of her heart. "Most of the lyrics were written way before my diagnosis or Covid. In some way, they feel very prophetic to me. Just before I got cancer, the three of us (Rob, Jon and myself) had a mega-improvisation session at our home studio and the work we did formed the basis of the album. I was filled with a febrile, almost frenetic energy that I put into that initial vocal delivery (which remained unchanged). Many many refinements musically and with vocal harmonies added later, we finished the album after my treatment had ended (and Rob was still undergoing his). I want to say don't be defined by an illness, addiction, status or money. We are literally stardust and we only sweep by once". Rob said these revealing words “To complete this album was at times the hardest ever due to both of us hit by cancer as well as the COVID lockdown. Recording the music around Karen’s vocals got me through many dark nights of the soul , working alone during the many weeks Karen was hospitalized- remaining hopeful as well as scared she might die - stage 4 cancer is frightening. Many tears were shed as I played but it came together to form our best album yet. At times I thought if it was completed it would be our swan song. But that is not the case! New tunes in various stages of completion as we continue to get well. Hoping to gig again in 2022. Also wanted to thank Lee for all the support and love he has given us over the past 3 years”
'Spirit in a Meat Suit' is an emotional experience folks. I sat attached to the seat of my chair for three auditions of this physical CD copy I have (for those unaware, I typically listen to a disc three separate times over a week or more period, just to fully absorb, to never allow a bad day to decide my intake of an album). I was shaking my head in disbelief at times, and quickly understood on first listen, THIS IS Babal's pinnacle at the present date. So much to take in, and we are gently shuttled back to mother earth by the end song 'Through Hardship To The Stars' which is so beautiful with what is surely Karen's most tender and breathtaking vocals ever. Another WOW tune, as Rob uses ambient and faultless effects from guitar, along with a more dominate keyboard inclusion (and this is on most of the recording I might add, and do not mean to list last), to give what has to be Babal's most tranquil moments. What a wonderful lineup of compositions, musicians, and artwork done by Paul Kopal, Russ Brown, Glen Tomney, and Andy White, that not only compliments this release, but stands out as masterpieces of art on their own. Buy the CD to get this extravagant glossy six panel digipak with booklet (full of art as well) and a slip cover to encase the finest release BABAL have ever done. Do NOT ignore the rest of the large and distinguished catalog of recordings. You will not find a more dedicated and honest group of people making music. And if you do not know these people, it is a fact that both Karen and Rob have gone through hardship most will never be faced with. It was not enough that they live in UK and dealt with lockdown from Covid (as most of us did) but remember Karen was in this same prison for way longer before the virus, for protection to her low immunity. Karen is in recovery from a rare blood cancer, Rob from melanoma. Both were at life threatening stage before treatment, and they have continued to make music that matters. And it matters a lot folks! A GIGANTIC RECOMMENDATION for 'Spirit In A Meat Suit' by BABAL. Long live tenacity!!!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 5 - 6 - 2021