Electric E – Babylon Music
Electric E’s music and songwriting will hit you as quite unlike anyone else recording today. There are clear frames of reference you can call upon when hearing his work, but his synthesis of multiple genres on a single album challenges the idea that he’s just one thing – he contains multitudes. There’s a strong electronic influence pervading over the songs on both Babylon Music and 3 Sides to Every Story, but there’s rock influences, funk, ambient touches, and other sounds exerting a hold over his musical imagination. The Seattle based performer has likewise published four books of poetry and prose, so it is clear there is a thoughtful consciousness powering these releases. It makes them a must-hear for anyone interested in modern music.
“Babylon Music” opens the album of the same name and, for those new to Electric E’s music, I can scarcely conceive of a better introduction to what he does. The lyrical content is lost, to a certain extent, thanks to where he positions his voice in the mix, but it’s nonetheless a compelling way to begin the album. The sharp vocal phrasing on the song “How Do You Think I Feel” complements the predominantly electronic instrumentation and it rates as one of the best tracks on either album. The vocals underline the overall quality of Electric E’s lyric and I believe it has a dramatic impact.
There’s a lot to recommend the track “Copycat Culture”. It’s another song dominated by electronic music but doesn’t follow one direction and its shifts seem natural rather than forced. Electric E generates a tremendous amount of energy with this performance. The only quibble I have is how the vocals are mixed – they are too upfront and obscure the music. “Lady Dawn” is one of the more interesting tracks, a real sleeper, thanks to its quasi-soul/funk vibe and Electric E responds with a top-notch vocal. The finale “On a Shady Tree” has a five-star lyric and vocal to match. It ends Babylon Music on a reflective and muted note.
“Nitroglycerin Kamikaze” begins 3 Sides to Every Story in a breathtaking fashion for me. The melody is what sticks with you more than anything else. There is an ominous undercurrent
underlying it and the percussion is in near-constant motion from the start. Electronically driven instrumentals such as “Lateral Latitudes” are common on both albums and have an orchestrated quality that might elude listeners if they aren’t paying attention. It’s impressive how he weaves several threads into a coherent whole without ever losing his way.
Another instrumental, “Waves of the Futuristic”, is a layered and dense electronic composition with a variety of components seamlessly interlocking with each other. The electronic sound, much more prevalent on this album than Babylon Music, continues with the instrumental cut “Absolute Dreamshiftin’” and the omnipresent energy surrounding this track makes it one
of the more successful songs of its type included on 3 Sides to Every Story. The last song, “Birdman Whiplash”, has two distinct halves. And the inclusion of piano in the track’s first part spins it in a much different way than Electric E’s typical material. The cumulative creative punch of these two albums marks Electric E as a musical artist of note who will only continue improving with each new release.
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