What does Babel sound like?
The review of Babel – Mirrors
Helinski-based duo Babel popped onto my radar with their sublime slice of summer synth-pop with ‘Closer’. Karin Mäkiranta & Mikko Pykäri managed to create something that felt like an anthem whilst not tackling anthemic music in a usual structured way. Babel’s new EP ‘Mirrors’ takes that similar approach across various indie pop styles. There are plenty of catchy moments and heady hooks to get your teeth into but it is built in a way designed to be understated too.
The title track that opens the EP showcases this dichotomy really well. Starting off with simple piano chords, the song evolves into a dreamy collage of vocal “oohs”, light electric guitar picks and soft drums. The hooks are really strong but the instrumentation is laid back and hazy. Playful, upbeat and optimistic, the sunshine melts through the light aural synths to make the listener smile whilst conveying an unrushed exhale of emotions too. ‘Sanctuary’ is a little more direct with its catchy, airy and breezy melodies. It leans into a new jazz and funk feel with retro synths, electric piano and muted bass guitar. Adding to the crystal clear jazz recording style are Karin’s delicate vocals. They are recorded completely cleanly like a 1960s folk songstress and she commands your ear because of that decision. It sounds like lounge jazz and indie pop had a baby.
Air is this EP’s element and the light woodwind flute arrangements give ‘Lost In It’ only confirm this. The lush instrumentation of pipe organ and zither stabs over flutes, muted bass, human whistles and crisp drums make this track stand out. It doesn’t follow a verse/chorus structure but rather movements. The first is flute-drenched indie pop. Then we have a baroque pop section. Finally, an increasingly offkey human whistle veers the track into a bit of a dizzied closure. Whilst ‘Lost In It’ is the standout artistically, ‘Closer’ is the pop hit in waiting. This smooth accordion-led indie pop number personifies Babel’s commitment to thin production. There are only a few instruments ever in play at one time but they are all given enough space to shine and revel in their melodic layers. It’s one of the most restrained summer bangers I’ve heard and loved in ages. When I discovered the song, I said it was like Cocteau Twins on the Eurovision and it is still an apt description. The closing track ‘Crush’ reminds me of Kate Bush’s ‘The Red Shoes’ album with its warm organ production set against rock guitars and flute samples. The upbeat drums stop the song from sounding a bit too sappy and its electronic edges give it a Mandalay sound too. For those who enjoyed early 2000s electro-pop, and William Orbit or early Guy Sigworth production, you’ll be in for a treat.
Whilst I’d have liked Babel to have hit a bit harder with the drums and bass at times, their music is like an audio angel cake. Designed to be lightweight, fluffy and sweet to taste, it’s deceptively morish. If the direct crystal clean approach to production doesn’t get you, the catchy melodies will. I’ll be cracking out this EP when I need to let my hair down and bask in weaker sunshine days.
Recommended track: Closer
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