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Once again I’m on a dry spell of local albums so I’m returning to my stack of new regional CDs and looking south to the scene from down in the Twin Cities. I was interested in the new Bae Tigre album titled “Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical” because the group just recently played a show in the Twin Ports. Bae Tigre is a continuation of the group, Tiger Vs., which was fronted by Ranelle Bene Gesserit-Johnson and played around for a couple of years in the Minneapolis area.
The two projects have a lot of similarities; they both hinge heavily on electronic/synth elements but play back and forth between being experimental and pop. “Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical” is the debut album for this new project which also includes Katherine Seggerman (drums/vocals), Addison Wasson (electric cello), Nathaniel Bates (computer/Kaoss pad) and Alex Galle-From (viola). The instruments and devices on this album creates wide shifts in the blend of classical and electronic music.
When it comes to music and the finished whole of an album, I’ve mentioned before that it’s usually a good thing for there to be a listening experience or a journey. I’ll start out by saying that the title of this album holds up what is on it. I can’t say that I’d consider this music as “psychedelic,” but it is a trip to listen to and there’s plenty going on in the lyrics and snips of conversations between tracks to indicate that there are things pulled from psychedelic experiences on it. There are other references to problems in relationships that have been affected by substances. It also focuses on the struggles we sometimes carry in our minds and the resolutions we come up with to deal with those struggles or fit in.
Moving along to the music aspect of this album, it is simply gorgeous. The album opens with the track “Now or Never,” which starts with beautiful and airy vocals from Ranelle backed with tranquil and floating keys. The song eventually breaks into more of an electro-pop feel but there are memorizing soundscapes that keep shifting around and this happens a lot on this album. The track ends with the lyrics, “now come inside.” The first track lays the ground work for where the album goes from there. Looking at the album’s cover, there is a room with red carpet and bare white walls aside from a tiny “no smoking” sign. In the room there is a fancy white and gold couch and a gold table of sorts with a crystal ball on it. It’s as if the listener has been invited into this room and this world.
There is a certain calm in much of this album but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a mix of grooving synth parts like in the song, “Chemicals,” woven into the pretty parts. This also doesn’t mean that this album doesn’t pull on some fairly negative subjects. “Why do we pretend that there is no problem?/ Now that we know that we’ve hit rock bottom/ You and I have got some things in common/ I think it’s a lie, we saw this coming,” goes the chorus.
The dialog clip that starts off the track “Love Drifter” shows a brief conversation between a man and woman as they talk about “coming down.” “But it’s gonna get really sad isn’t it,” says the woman about coming down. “No,” the man replies. The opening lyrics set a rather bleak scene, “You lay by my side/ you sleep while I cry/ you’d notice if you didn’t drink.” The song blends a classical sounding piano into layers of synth sounds making the song both beautiful and sad.
I listened to this album a few times through with speakers and I thought it was good, but I’ll say the album really reaches a whole new level when it is listened to through headphones and the track “Happy” really stands out. The song weaves together numerous vocal parts which are cleverly panned back and forth. This song is probably the most on edge tracks on the album. One of the vocal parts that gets repeated goes, “1-2-3 infinity/the life you live is not for me/an acid trip to change my grip/on how I see reality.” The song ends dramatically and tense with Ranelle concluding, “I’m going to go to school…I’m going to get a job…I’m going to by nice things…They tell me to sing…And be happy.”
The albums lightens up in feel towards the last half, but the lyrics still aren’t exactly happy. Classical instruments are highlighted more than in the first half, but there’s still plenty of samples and electronic elements going on. The way the album as a whole is produced is tremendous and Ranelle shows that not only is she a versatile and talented songwriter/musician, she has a unique and firm handle on the production side of making music.
The album ends off with a hopeful note with the song “After the Snow.” “Don’t you assume/ theres no place to go/ after the snow.” The album releases the listener from the experience and lets them off with warm swirling vocals and instruments.
Overall, “Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical” engages the listener from start to finish with stunning arrangements of vocal work and musicianship. The production is innovative and experimental which ends up as a non-stop palette of sounds that are brought together expertly. There’s something fascinating and deep to the music, but it still has plenty of catchy parts.
The project falls into the area of electronic Indie music. I hate doing comparisons but it lies somewhere along the lines of female fronted groups like iamamiwhoami, Ladytron, Grimes, Frou Frou, Bjork and Lana Del Rey.
The CD will be available for purchase on December 5, 2014. It can be listened to an purchased online by visiting baetigre.bandcamp.com/releases.