In an age where everything in the charts is so smoothly processed and engineered it can sound like most music has had near all trace of human removed. ‘Beat The Babble’ by Alex Dingley makes a refreshing change.
The short bass scale, the last note of which is left to hang, on opener ‘After the Laughter’ creates a startling juxtaposition with the instrumentation surrounding it. The impression is immediately created this is an artist not uncomfortable with going against the grain.
By the second track ‘Between the Sheets’ the absence of a big drum sound creates a lot of space that allows a rudimentary piano line to shine and is strangely emotive. It’s over just as you’re hooked – a neat trick. No monotony here.
Back to the distinctive bass with ‘Butterfly Corpses’. There’s a notable crackle on my right speaker from the guitar. A delightful little lofi touch, intended or otherwise. Hailing as Dingley does from the same part of the world as Cate Le Bon, I wouldn’t go so far as to state her influence is very obviously felt on this LP as perhaps these are artists who have more influenced each other. But there’s undoubtedly certain similarities regarding the overall sound.
‘I Don’t Ever’ has an addictive vocal melody line that will worm its way into your head. Whilst there’s something magical and quintessentially Welsh about the vibe of this track, and indeed the album in general, it’s also conjuring up a hint of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah which is never a bad thing in my view.
‘Lovely Life to Leave’ is a more melancholy track, as the title might suggest. It’s actually a song you could imagine a big hitting artist covering. But it’s best not to. Better to relish it as it is – natural and rough around the edges. The drums are nicely understated and add to the endearing nature of the whole tune.
‘Not Alone in the Dark’ might be a song you’re familiar with if you’ve checked out Dingley’s music videos. I think we can safely surmise at this juncture that Beat The Babble definitely has its own bass sound which intermittently appears to help characterize this record. The net result is a little bit Television. Again, never a sin.
‘If I Asked You to Dance’ begins with a zany rhythm and a cutesy little lyric. The ‘ahs’ remind me of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ or is that just me? This is a lovely little number and the sparseness of the arrangement really elevates how it registers emotionally.
This record is less than half an hour long and the minutes are flying by. You may already be thinking about hitting play again when ‘She Just Came By To Say Hello’ makes its presence felt. This is the biggest sounding track so far. The organ really gives it a different kind of feel before some wacky noodling kicks in. Just as you’re thinking Dingley is going for something more conventional sounding we’re reminded of the playful attitude that permeates his work. The track completely changes direction and it all gets rather jaunty. Brilliant.
We’re back to the chunky bass that underpins this whole album experience with ‘One Good Idea’. Again Dingley serves up a joyfully bonkers diversion before returning to the basic song structure and the track’s over before two and a half minutes is up. It might be worth nothing at this point that the previous song is in fact the only number that comes in over three minutes.
‘In The End’, and the nature of the song before it, neatly encapsulates the essence of this record. It swings like a pendulum back and forth from playful angular patterns to the type of emotional sincerity that can’t help but pull at the most curmudgeonly listener’s heart strings. It’s wonderful to hear something that completely sidesteps the often unquestioned wisdom concerning modern production and provides at times an almost bare bones feel. If you’re a fan of anything from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci to Cate Le Bon we’d predict you’ll get a lot out of this album. If you wait until June 15th there’ll be a new physical release to get your hands on. Treat yourself.