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I don’t review every Twin Cities album I get. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to every CD that is sent my way at least once. There are are a variety of factors that go into deciding to whether I take on a review for a Cities album. Bae Tigre definitely stands out for music in not only this area, but really anywhere and I was happy to get a chance to listen to the latest album, “Perennial Bygones.” Sometime last fall, a friend saw Bae Tigre at Pizza Luce’ in Duluth and passed me along the album “Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical.” It was a rather trippy, powerful, yet beautiful album.
Bae Tigre is led by Ranelle Johnson who does everything from the stunning arrangements of synth sounds, the sometimes airy and sometimes intense vocals and also takes on the production of her work. As a whole, the last album was excellent. Her group includes John Acarregui (drums), Addison (electro-cello), Nathaniel Bates (computer/Kaoss pad) and Alex Gale-From (viola).
The newly released album does contain some of the sound of “Drifting Chemical,” but takes it to different places. For starters, the strings (cello and viola) seem to be more present in this album than on the last and it’s awesome. There’s a contemporary classical element to the string arrangements where there is a sentimental feel that is somehow bittersweet in parts. They flow in and out perfectly with the song structure so nothing ever seems boring or repetitious but with the way the songs twist around the vocals, they complement the tracks well.
The first track, “We Will Go,” stays light but there’s always some thought in the lyrics with this material, “I’ve invited protesters, they’re fighting to make history/And the drifters, wanderers..they’re living life for the journey/And we’ll write a book before we go.” There’s still an experimental-electro-indie-pop aspect, but this music doesn’t come off like it’s all about driving catchy hooks, although it might be interesting to hear a dance remix of some this material. There’s something meaningful about this music on top of often swinging back and forth between something beautiful and something about ready to explode. The track “Death to the Fairytale” brings in all sorts of electronic aspects and stops and starts, but the strings again really add something to the overall song.
While many would be able to call most of this music pretty, the experimental aspects shine out here and there. The track “Imposable Apocalypse” reaches out of the usual with almost rapped lyrics that fade away into droning vocal soundscapes that are mixed with tension building stabs on the viola and electronic elements. The material is original, but it’s not afraid to push some limits.
At times Bae Tigre’s lyrics can be a little abstract, but at other times, they can be pretty straight forward about a specific topic or life situation. The track “I’m A Tiger,” does have a feminist aspect to it, but it also takes on a personal approach. “Push her around, girl she’s got it easy/Oh no..now she’s angry/Oh god..that girl she must be crazy.” “Just because I’m woman now you’re asking where I’m going/Well I went to make some music/Now they ask which man around me wrote it.” Needless to say, Johnson is making a clear statement about being a female who makes serious music.
Johnson would no doubt go out and start playing shows to promote this new material but she just recently ran into a hang up with that plan. “For those who do not know, my keyboard (Yamaha Mox 8) was intentionally kicked/broken by someone at our show at the Nomad last week. This keyboard meant a lot to me and is the outboard gear that I used to record all of the synths, piano, pads, sound effects, and drums on both ‘Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical’ and ‘Perennial Bygones.’ I am super thankful and appreciative of any sort of help. I hope to replace my keyboard as soon as possible and be playing music for you again soon,” posted Johnson on Bae Tigre’s Facebook wall on Monday, June 6. Needless to say if she created all of this music on that keyboard, it would hard to do the same thing again with a different keyboard and even with the same synth, there’s no doubt it will take hours of figuring out how things were set up unless if she took really good notes. In other words A MicroKorg or a garage sale Casio probably aren’t going to cut it for this material.
Both of the Bae Tigre albums can be found on bandcamp.com and soundcloud.com for free. If anyone likes what they hear and would like to get this innovative group back up and running sooner than later, go to https://cash.me/$baetigrekeyboard to help with the cause.