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Babal - Spirit in a Meat Suit CD (album) cover

SPIRIT IN A MEAT SUIT

Babal

 

Crossover Prog

4.00 | 1 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This is the third and final instalment of 'The Circle of Confusion of Tongues' series which started with that album in 2018 and was then followed up by 'Dreams For Imaginary Puppet Shows on the Radio' last year. Although over the years they have had other musicians involved, particularly for live shows, and have even performed under different names (with albums as Wise Children, then Babble, before Babal), at the heart of it all have been the same three musicians. The last few years have been particularly hard for Karen Langley (vocals) and Rob Williams (guitar, synths) who have both had serious illnesses, which is difficult at any time but during a pandemic is so much worse, yet somehow, they have combined again with Jon Sharp (drums) to create an album which is probably their most effective yet.

When I reviewed the first album in this trilogy, I stated they were heavily influenced by Frank Zappa, Bill Nelson, and Talking Heads in particular, but in many ways, this has moved away from Byrne and jumped headlong into art rock, krautrock, and experimental esoteric prog. At times this is just plain weird, yet somehow it always makes musical sense. This is music which feels symbiotic, created together at the same point in time as opposed to each musician coming in with their own parts. Sharp's intricate patterns and constantly changing approach is a key feature of the underlying sound, with Ron twisting different musical elements around those structures and then over the top there is Karen. At times she is singing gently, such as on closer "Through Hardship To The Stars", while at others she is challenging us, abrupt and sneering, both edgy and on the edge. At times it is melodic, and at others far more involved, daring us to go on the musical journey with them. It can be dreamy, restful, and pleasant, while at others it is jagged and harsh, abrupt, and staccato. There is always a great deal going on, and the ears are often attracted to one element or another, as the world is built, moulded, and constantly morphing into something else. Karen was too ill to be involved with the last album, but one would never guess there has been any past issues given her performance here which is controlled and full of presence.

At times this is not for the faint-hearted, and opener "Puss In Boots" is put there to see who is brave enough to continue the journey as it starts in a style where the vocals are at odds with the melody beneath. As it progresses it gets darker, almost industrial in its presence, with strange guitars and effects, but in many ways, it is the perfect opener as Babal immediately invite us into their unusual world, uncompromising and very much on their terms. Zappa, Bill Nelson, art rock, prog rock, krautrock, it is all here in 'Spirit In A Meat Suit'. "The liberation I feel from producing this work has literally been phenomenal", says Karen "sometimes I couldn't do any work for months and sometimes neither could Rob. We were like a musical see-saw; each helping the other go up if the other was down. I'm really happy with the result, we all are ? it's been well worth the persistence". Now could not be a better time to discover Babal.

kev rowland | 4/5 |

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