Monday, April 15, 2013

Pitstop: Baobab

It takes a very creative and diligent person to create music the way Baobab does. And yet, few people would accuse Baobab's mastermind Phil Torres as being anything but. Releasing his debut self-titled full length early last year and quickly following up with sophomore full length Bayohbahb on Hand Eye Records, Torres is positively overflowing with creative energy of that there can be no denying.

One of the things it may be hard to conceive is that absolutely everything you hear on Baobab's records is all the work on one man. Surprising given the intricacy, the total and complete fullness of sound, and the pairing of electro-acoustic elements so flawlessly but it's all true. Also surprising is how despite the complex layering at play, that Torres manages to keep his songs sounding so incredibly simple. They're very straight-forward folk pop jams at their core and that's never really forgotten regardless of Torres elects to dress them up. 

The tracks are short, pleasantly arranged tunes that are really only long enough to get their point across before fading out and giving way to the next one. A tough act of balancing a need to hear more of your favorite musical moments and simply cutting to the chase which Torres is an adept, allowing him to engage in a sort of  musical sleigh-of-hand, packing his album with an irregular amount of tracks and having you be none the wiser - the tracks build on each other and truly seem like a collection. The albums breeze by unhindered but not without making a definite impression.  

Despite his knack for pairing loops and synths with far more natural sounds like fingerpicked guitar and mandolin, Baobab is more than just a one-trick pony. Bayohbahb sees a shift in Torres' electronic exploration - having the electronics utilized more openly, elevating their importance far more than on Baobab, enabling Torres a far more diverse textural palette. But the organic sounds that took the spotlight on Baobab aren't gone or even forgotten - after the jarringly electro pop of "Oceanus Procellarum", "Merida" swoops in to soothe, to put everything back in order for the unsuspecting Baobab fan. After which, the album strives to evenly balance it's use of both. It's a low-stakes tug-of-war that results in some pretty spectacular music moments as the album gives in to it's initial inclinations. 

Where Baobab recalled sunny plains, Bayohbahb invokes a pervasive sea imagery. At times sunny, others stormy, it's less about Torres' lyricism that call attention to this - rather the fluid pull; a resplendent ebb and flow, and a sort of odd transparency despite many of the songs' complex compositions. It's more than just the summery beach vibes many bands resort to - Bayohbahb gives itself completely to open air traverses that leave the beach far out of sight. 

Considering his ability to create two infectious, engaging works in an amount of time that's short even in these days of  an instant gratification focused music industry, there's no doubt in my mind of Baobab's musical prowess. Where loops are largely hit or miss with people, Torres' ability to follow up an already incredible release with something that both manages to sound like a true successor while also offering up a healthy dose of elegantly carried out ideas makes him a sure-fire one to watch. I'll be waiting with bated breath for not only his next musical release but also any hints of a tour. Baobab seems like one show you absolutely don't want to miss.

Digital copies of Bayohbahb are available now, while vinyl editions are out April 30th. You can order/preorder via Baobab's Bandcamp if you're so inclined.        

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