(Entertainment Systems, 2015)
Babexo is a project based in Rome, and the listing for this cassette on Entertainment Systems’ bandcamp page says it’s possibly Babexo’s final album. Here’s where I’m going to disagree with both label and artist: It can’t be the final album, because I’ve just discovered them. Both. And we all know, especially if you’re a regular reader, that all music is made to appease my whims, and my whims alone. So hear that, Babexo? Make more music. Pronto.
I kid, I kid. I respect the decision here, and I’ll live with it. I’ll just have to keep an eye on what Babexo does next, in whatever form Vyvyan Colonna, the sole person behind the project, does it. Listening to Last Days of Youth, though, I can’t help but agree that the artist is going out on a high note, if this is indeed the end. And where one thing ends, another begins – this cassette is part of a three-cassette inaugural release batch from Entertainment Systems, and my initial impression is that I’m going to have to celebrate ecstatically whenever they drop batch two. (Cryptosystem I’s Mortalscapes and Dagir Du’s Gloom Fortress round out the current catalog – hopefully I’ll get around to writing about them as well.)
And ooohhh… Endings, beginnings, and their consequent emotional heaviness – that’s what Babexo brings to the table here. Last Days of Youth is exactly that – an album-length meditation on growing up and getting acclimated to adulthood, realizing there’s more beyond the endless bounds of childlike energy and excitement. You will lose your innocence, I promise you! Sorry, that was bleak. Babexo does nothing bleakly – the music flows through the imagination and weaves soft reminiscences with the openendedness of the rest of your life. It’s fricking beautiful, man, because it hits all the points it needs to in order to celebrate this amazingly weird transition.
It begins with the shimmery “Stay Here,” a paean to early M83 ambient washes, and a proper descendent if ever there was one. The title is a plea to remain, obviously, but whoever the plea is made to is moving on – whether that move is physical or mental isn’t specified, but both can apply. The M83 sonic connection is quite apt, as Anthony Gonzalez’s outfit has perfected the art of personifying wistful longing in song form, and Babexo does it just as well. As a bookend, the title track stretches in melancholy moodiness for over five minutes, again recalling M83’s gloomier passages. It has a resignation about it, a quiet dullness of looming responsibility; and a suggestion that it will likely only exist to evoke nostalgia and nothing more, bringing with it a sadness that’s tough to shake. It’s the soundtrack to the end of an era. But it’s so tranquil too, filled with night rain and air you can taste when you breathe it.
There’s more in the middle – there’s a lot of music here, I promise! “Glory Hole” is the only track here with vocals, and the barely two-minute track recalls the brilliant eponymous EP by Safe (CF Edley, we miss you!), with its organ-led waltz and warm, melancholy voice. “Kubla Khan” somehow manages to conjure the adjective “driving” even though it only really features a keyboard arpeggio and cymbal patches. “Gospel for S” is a revelation, a beaming definition of the nostalgia driving the record. And “Our Home,: features the inimitable Seeami (Adhesive Sounds shoutout!), and sounds like crackley bedroom post rock. Oh right – “Summer Nights” sounds like an instrumental Grandaddy demo of all things – and that’s good.
So whether this here’s an ending for Colonna as Babexo, or the beginning of something else, there will always be this bittersweet transition in Last Days of Youth. The cassette hits every emotional note perfectly. Spin it once, spin it a hundred times, you’ll still feel good about yourself in some way, whether you’re reminiscing about the past or dreaming about the future.
RIYL: Seeami, Safe, M83, Jatun, early Black Moth Super Rainbow