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Philip Gayle - Babanço Total
CD (NYC)



-sleep rain
-say hello to my little cowpaddy
-esa peko peko pah
-feral basil pesto
-stone shoes
-merkin identity crisis
-agnes unknown
-falling off brain like i told myselves
-hadaka denkyu very much
-howdy elephant tree
-The Queensboro Bridge Song (Feelin' Slumpy)
-bi-curious marsupials underneath the panels for the walls of purgatory
-the indexicality of my middle finger
-naked brunch
-pajama turtles




Mastered by by Hideki Kato
Artwork by John Cramer

Reviews:
(Killed In Cars) If I were grading recent submissions on a curve for weirdness, Philip Gayle’s “Babanço Total” would set the top of my curve. This is a record that immediately demanded my attention and cut its way to the front of a long review queue with its uncompromising and sometimes uncomfortable soundworld, gently described as a “one-time exploration of the voice and body soundscape” in its press release. The first track, “sleep rain,” got me thinking that I was listening to an album of layered avant-garde vocals, in the spirit of albums like Mike Patton’s “Adult Themes for Voice” or Maja Ratkje’s “Voice,” or Jaap Blonk’s work. Overall, that is indeed a good starting point for “Babanço Total,” and I suspect that if you like those records, you’ll want to track down a copy of this album. Most tracks are built of many, many layers of overdubbed voices producing an impressive variety of textures and rhythms. But by the third track, “esa peko peko pah,” I was considering how “body soundscape” presumably refers to sounds originating from more than voices, which is articulated slightly more explicitly in the album’s subtitle on the back cover: “Improvised bodily functions, etc.” Gentler readers, how to say it?—you might hear some eructation, emesis, lower-body peristaltic themes and variations. I don’t want to make too much of it, as “sounds from the bathroom” are a small percentage of the overall recording, but there are 3 or 4 tracks on which burp-ish, fart-ish, or puke-ish sounds may come to your attention. If you’re inclined to be irritated or upset by that sort of thing, there’s your fair warning. I can deal with it in the context of this music, though I must admit that my less mature side is quite amused by a mental image of this album being partially recorded at SugarHill Studios in Houston, the self-proclaimed “Abbey Road of the South.” I’ll bet these were surprising sessions for the engineers there! Philip Gayle’s previous solo efforts have concentrated on layers of mostly stringed instruments overdubbed in what amounts to a kind of free-improv solitaire, focusing on textural and timbral aspects of sound design. I went back to his 2005 “The Mommy Row” album in search of context for “Babanço Total.” It’s a great record that alternates between sections of long-tone, mostly bowed drones punctuated with Asian-sounding percussion, and fast skittering acoustic strings playing lines that remind me of early Eugene Chadbourne. Some tracks like “Cow People” use a lot of liquid pouring/bubbling sounds that form a great timbral bridge between the two records. Both records are dense with overdubs, which remain fairly independent from one another rhythmically, proving that free improvisation can happen via overdubs instead of ensembles. That’s not to say this music is created quickly or carelessly: in the case of “Babanço Total,” recording started in 2000 and wasn’t completed until 2008. The tracks flow freely within themselves, but there is a clear sense of prior deliberation toward framing out the boundaries and approaches unique to each piece. And postproduction plays a role in many pieces, like the tremolo-like rhythmic voice clusters undulating beneath most of “feral basil pesto,” with quick fade-up articulations before each iteration, or sped-up speech patterns comprising much of “falling off brain like i told myselves,” which pleasantly remind me of Renaldo & the Loaf. Even the potentially juvenile burping sounds tend to be used in unexpectedly “mature” ways, like those in “naked brunch” that essentially become long drones oscillating beneath scrapes, breaths, and almost horn-like quick sounds whose origin I can’t quite identify. “agnes unknown” uses long belchy sounds, too, but they’re more foreground than background on that track. Especially effective for me was the album’s closer, “pajama turtles,” which features long quasi-microtonal chorale overdubs on shifting vowel sounds, all supporting a frenetic sped-up sounding solo munchkin freakout. I really liked “feral basil pesto,” too, which for me evokes some kind of Muppets-meet-zombies aural opera. The packaging for this disc deserves a mention, too: Houston artist and musician John Cramer’s work is featured in color on the front cover, and four more panels of his drawings are found inside. All depict creatures made of heads fused together in various ways, an eerily perfect visual analogue to the music found inside. As mentioned earlier, this record is a one-time exploration for Gayle, whose plans for the immediate future are focusing on a guitar-based record. He also plays guitar and mandolin for more conventional acts, including a recent tour on guitar with singer/songwriter Ember Schrag. But he certainly brings a set of interesting ideas to the table with “Babanço Total,” and considering how few weirdovocal albums are released, let’s hope he returns to the form as time and inspiration allow. - Scott Scholz

(Chain D.L.K.) Until the day I heard this record, I considered myself quite far out in the musical world. But that was then - Now I know I have a long way to go, if I want to see just the horizon of where musical projects can bring you. On this record, Philip Gayle has put together compositions in the same overdubbing way as on his guitar based records, slicing up sounds and merging them together to form interesting combinations of new structures and textures. But one thing differs a lot from his past records: The guitars and string instruments are replaced by body sounds, gibberish speech, burps, snoring, sneezing and sounds on the fringe of what you can recall as vocals. All from his own body. Gayle has recorded body sounds for eight years, from 2000 till 2008, and put them together in both interesting and challenging ways, leaving most of the material in it's original form without processing, or any doubt about how the sounds are made or where they come from. Because the concrete sounds are so familiar to us as listeners, this record is a bit more challenging than other pieces of concrete music. It makes it harder to listen to the songs in a pure musical way, since your'e always reminded of the origin of the sound. That challenge is also why I like this record, it's a perfect test in so called acousmatic listening: Trying to listen to the acoustic parameters of the sound itself, and reject the associations we get to the source. I think John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer would appreciate this record, as it both challenge and extend their thoughts on what can be considered as musical elements or not. I'm not sure if Gayle think of this record as an attempt to widen the conception of what we can call musical sounds or not, but I needed to concentrate to hear the sounds itself, and not the sources. (A good example of that is the song merkin identity crisis, where the question appears: Is he jogging now, or is that the sound of an intercourse?). When it comes to the musical content, the record has a wide range of compositions and sound material, from deep growling drones and static darth vader breathing to chaotic, high pitched ''donald duck'' performances and heavily panned gibberish cacophonies. You don't feel anything is repeated unnecessary, or just placed there without a reason, it's just the content itself that makes everything, eh.. something else. This record is by far the weirdest record I've ever heard, and I'm glad to see that musical boundaries still can be moved, challenged and even broken, in a postmodern time we tend to think that nothing can surprise us anymore. This is pure madness, in it's most creative and inventive way. But I should still warn you - it is far, far out. - Eirik Havnes

(Babysue) We've reviewed all sorts and types of bands and artists over the years and yet...we've never heard anything quite like Babanco Total. To quote directly from the press release, "The entire album is made up of voice and body sounds all mixed together in the same type of overdubbing style as [Gayle's] instrumental albums." So the first thing we have to admit here is that...we're not quite sure how listenable this one is. But despite that, it sure is interesting. This is by no means a traditional noise as music type release created using synthesizers and digital effects. Philip records and layers body sounds in such a way that it is both peculiar and sometimes slightly distressing. We've always been somewhat depressed by the human body itself...so hearing all of these sounds presented in an audio collage is rather disturbing at times. This is one we will definitely keep...mainly to play for friends to see their reactions. This is easily one of the weirdest albums we've heard...ever. Is this garbage? Or is this art? You decide, dear listener. We're only the messengers this time... - lmnop

(The Pulse) Certainly one of the most unusual and flat-out insane albums of recent memory, Philip Gayle’s “Babanço Total” was created entirely from sounds that originated from his body—and it’s not an album for the squeamish. No noise is too awkward for Gayle, from gurgles and burps to blowing raspberries to the sound of swishing saliva around his mouth. It varies from being hilarious to causing discomfort, and it’s a bit like eavesdropping on someone working his way through some severe gastrointestinal issues. Gayle uses his voice frequently on the album, but it’s dramatically altered so that it has no semblance of normality. At times, he seems to be imitating Donald Duck, and on “Feral Basil Pesto,” he primarily uses nonsense vocal sounds, although a few distinguishable words actually slip through. “Stone Shoes” features exaggerated kissy-type noises, while “Falling Off Brain Like I Told Myselves” is a cacophony of sped-up voices, played in reverse—an appropriately disorienting track that seems to manifest the multiple personality disorder suggested by the title. For “Howdy Elephant Tree,” Gayle vocalizes with a vaguely Southern accent and is perhaps imitating the patterns of someone with mental deficiencies, for an extra dose of wrongness. This kind of body-focused sound creation is not unprecedented, and perhaps a sibling track is the 1970 piece “Our Song” by Ron Geesin and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, created for a documentary about anatomy. While “Our Song” was a concentrated burst, “Babanço Total” explores its unconventional sound-making for over an hour, making it difficult listening for all but the most hardy listeners. Although Gayle is clearly flaunting his eccentricities, the album isn’t just a pile of random sounds. There is some method to the song constructions and even harmonizing in places where one might not expect. I’m glad this album exists, although I may not be compelled to listen to it frequently, being completely bonkers, utterly awkward and unabashedly ridiculous. - Ernie Paik

(Monk Mink Pink Punk)A friend and talented guitarist, once from Houston, now based in New York City, Philip Gayle lays down his guitars and other stringed instruments for a very strange record of all vocal sounds. “Improvised bodily functions, etc.” claims the CD, these gurgles, gibberish, smacks, smucks, abstract crooning and all manner of other mouth sounds are processed and layered into whimsical pieces with equally whimsical titles. “esa peko peko pah.” “feral basil pesto.” “merkin identity crisis.” “Pajama Turtles” sounds like a Gegorian chant choir backing an Ewok freakout. The processing of sounds seems limited to leave most of the natural and unmistakable complexities of the voice. Gayle brings as much variety to his vocals as he has done in the past on his guitars. - Josh Ronsen

(Improvijazzation Nation) If improvised mayhem is what you’re after – Phillip has got it – in SPADES! Voice snippets embedded with various overdubs (on all 15 tracks) make for a truly novel/unique experience, especially on pieces like the opener, “sleep rain”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any sound samples on the net, so you’ll want to visit the LABEL page to get more information. I will say that the listener must be interested in experimental music, or they won’t find this attractive… in other words, if you’re expecting “straight ahead” jazz or blues, you won’t find it here. Another very attractive sonic adventure was the closer, “pajama turtles”… funny cartoon-like voices layered over a chorale make for a very deep 5:44 tune. I give Phillip a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED on this outing, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.96. - Rotcod Zzaj

(Felthat) Mastering an instrument as it is your own body is an almost sacred quest that is either reserved for yogi, gnostic pursuers of the left hand path or any other esotheric outsiders. Philip Gayle built his entire album on the multilayering of the sounds produced by his body. What caught my attention first is the lack of senseless repetition or cheap minimalism of sonorism which is a cardinal sin of many productions connected with free improv or beyond. Instead Gayle produces a hecttic ritual of hisses, hums, rattles, squeaks and the whole onomatopeic encyclopedia of sound put into one concrete symphony of individualism and certain amount of intimacy. Sometimes implemented with sounds of guitar unexpectedly breaks the clichee of crunchy abstract experiment and goes into folksy randomness with excellent sense of humour. An excellent journey into the (literally) guts of the sound no one should miss really... - Hubert Napiorski


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