This review originally featured in The Skinny.
While Babe’s 2014 debut, Volery Flighty, walked a varied path – pieced together over time, saturated with instruments and influences – their sophomore effort Kiss & Tell feels more focused than anything the band has done before, signalling a fresh, more measured approach that goes far to replicate the group’s captivating live incarnation. At times they’re part Beta Band, exploring off-kilter electronica and experimental noise with the vocal gymnastics and lyrical ambiguity of the Cocteau Twins.
Recorded and self-produced in more linear blocks, Kiss & Tell finally sees Babe as a fully-formed gang, following some line-up augmentations. With members split between Glasgow, Brussels and London, and with involvement in bands such as Bossy Love, Rozi Plain and François and the Atlas Mountains, the pan-European alliance’s collective musical pedigree is undeniable.
Opener Ayo is awash with slow-building synth, laid-back R&B grooves and understated beats, while Bit Part has room to breathe with handclap samples and wonky riffs. It saunters and builds with repeated near-climaxes, Gerard Black’s immaculate falsetto weaving throughout. Similarly, on Cupola Panorama, Black’s vocals are impeccable over a chorus of gentle synths and 80s guitar licks. There’s synergy between the elements and choirboy melodies floating on a sea of sounds.
Everything drops in to place for Ecce Poque, and the tempo lifts. Cutesy chirps dance over sweet beats and swirling reverb-laden riffs before the eloquent Eurodisco of Perpetuum Mobile. Wisteria is addictive electropop with heart, buoyant and electrifying, while Scooping Pints is a steel drum flirtation of scale-fluttering trills. Closing track Primo is the album’s well-placed crescendo of infectious energy, with beautiful blips, beats and handclaps.
Kiss & Tell is an effortlessly special album from an incredible, largely unclassifiable entity, with endless elements and influences combining to create something thrillingly unique.