New Wave of Cynicism
posted on 4/2005 By:
Norwegian noisemakers Babyflesh are out to create a buzz as big as their rumbling sound with their second release, New Wave of Cynicism. Although this is a sophomore effort, don’t be surprised if this is the first time you’ve seen their name--the band’s debut, Curiosity Killed the Angel, was a limited CD-R release. Other than those facts, information on Babyflesh is scarce, as the band’s website isn’t even up and running yet.
Babyflesh plays a dark ambient/industrial style that is heavy on atmosphere, and light on melody, lyrics, and organic instrumentation. The songs mostly consist of repetitive phrases of rumbling atmospheres, percussive banging and clanging, and intermittent ribbons of ambient melody. This kind of nontraditional music can best be enjoyed by listening in an equally nontraditional manner. Rather than focusing on the cumulative effect of the music and vocals, it is more revealing to listen to the elements individually, focusing on each segment’s entrancing quality of repetitive clamor, and what it contributes to the whole. It takes a few spins before this “narrow, then broad” listening method yields the result of more discernable intricacies of the music, and by that time many listeners may have moved on to something else. The question is whether New Wave of Cynicism is worth the effort, and unfortunately, I am not completely sure that it is. It is not by any means a bad album, but it just never seems to be able to push its way past average. The band is at their best when they construct heavily layered tracks that give the listener multiple trails to follow. “The Fight Is On” is an unrelenting seven minutes of the rumble of idling heavy machinery, hammering undercurrent, and a crashing ringing. A subtle and basic melody is looped and pops up for stretches of the song. “Suicide Song” begins with an In Slaughter Natives vibe, consisting of ominous battle march melody and thunderous drums. The track has more vocals than most, although unfortunately the echoing half sung/half spoken vocals transforms the dynamic of the song from sinister and foreboding to odd. Babyflesh do the same in other places, adding vocals in more melodic moments. Sometimes this adds to the songs, but as often it does not. Most of the voices come from dialogue samples that usually sound like one side of a telephone conversation, as heard through the receiver. “You or Me” is one of the stronger and heavier songs on the album, combining the usual ingredients but firing them off at double time, creating a frantic hammering churn, and the desperate, unintelligible shrieking vocal loop adds to the feverish tone of the song. The band closes the album with the slow undulating hum of “Mantra for the Nihilist” and the purely ambient “Sleeping With Knives”.
Perhaps New Wave of Cynicism is suffering from comparison, as I just finished reviewing The Axis of Perdition’s Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital, an album of stunning and terrifying atmosphere. By comparison, this album isn’t nearly as adept a display of soundscape construction, though few albums are. Still, New Wave of Cynicism is a solid effort sure to interest fans of the genre, and is worth a look for curious listeners looking for an occasional noisy diversion. Everyone else could do better but also much worse.
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