Babils are a Belgian six-piece playing their own brand of avant-rock music, heavily inspired by what they hear in psychedelic acid-fried rock and krautrock, and you can hear two side-long examples of their cosmic thrash on Ji Ameeto (SUB ROSA SRV430), their latest LP. On the title track, they pretty much stay on one chord and slice their way through it with a remorseless chugging rhythm section, on top of which the main man Gabriel Séverin declaims his tuneless vocals through an echo unit, and the assorted instruments (keyboards, guitar, trumpet) noodle their free-wheeling acrobatics. Kinda heavy-handed in delivery, but it’s not a bad mix of sounds presented in this wodge of amplified splurge, and the steady beat just doesn’t quit. It’s not quite delivering on the hoped-for trance state, instead leaving you with a numbing fatigue.
The B side has a long title that begins ‘C’est La Raison Pour Laquelle…’ and here the band display a little more finesse in their execution of the cosmic blues jam. For one thing at least there’s a chord change or two, and we don’t feel quite the same merciless hammering of the senses. Somewhere there’s an implied grid creating spaces where the vocal interjections can land more successfully, so it doesn’t come across as a rant from a lectern by a frenzied guy holding a megaphone. The music here gives ample evidence of the band’s profligacy; they meet up every month, “improvise freely without any restraint”, and always record the results.
Babils has its origins in the friendship between Gabriel Séverin and Michel Duyck, a twosome who also used to perform as The Joint Between, though Duyck’s connection stretch back even further to Digital Dance, a Belgian New Wave band from the early 1980s. Babils grew into a five-piece, with guitarist Stephan Barbery asking to join in 2009 after he saw them freaking out on stage. Michel Duyck (the original guitarist) died in 2014 however, and Séverin has kindly dedicated this release to his old friend. To hear Babils with Duyck’s guitar contributions, I suppose you could do worse than start with 2011’s QTAB. Babils aren’t incompetent, and it sounds like they’re having fun, but I also feel the music is a little over-strained, as if too much effort is expended in the generation of these dense and heavy episodes. I’m reminded of Kosmose, another Belgian band who at least had the distinction of creating 1970s-styled music in the 1970s, instead of trying to emulate it in 2017. It so happens Kosmose were also released on Sub Rosa, who may have an agenda trying to restore Belgian avant-rock to the pantheon of European art music. We’ve also heard Séverin in his Rob (u) Rang guise here. From 20th March 2017.