BABII + GROVE – THE PRINCE ALBERT, BRIGHTON 1.12.21
Exactly two years to the day (1st December 2019) the Brighton & Hove News Music Team reacquainted themselves with the unorthodox (but down to earth) electro-pop pixie BABii who manages to be confidently awkward and at the same time awkwardly comfortable with her devoted audience.
Last time we caught up with her, she was appearing at the Concorde 2 in support of an unusually named act called !!! (CHK CHK CHK) and we concluded our review of her that night by stating “If you want a good night out and are a fan of the unexpected we recommend you look out for a BABii show near you soon”. Two years on and we are back to see whether this is still the case!
In fact our first brush with BABii was in a bizarre location on 10th May 2019, when she and amazingly the mid 1990’s top band Sleeper (of ‘Inbetweener’ and ‘Sale Of The Century’ hit singles fame) and Tim Burgess (from The Charlatans) as well as acts including Lazy Day and Average Sex played their live sets at The Shipwright’s Yard off of Middle Street in Brighton as part of invites only event during The Great Escape new music festival. This was amazing, it was akin to watching music stars performing live in your garage! You can see what we mean by finding the brief reviews HERE.
That day, BABii performed a 20 minute taster set on her red Simmons electronic drums (which incidentally Georgia is also known for playing) but tonight at The Prince Albert they have given way for smaller more compact technology that includes flat Roland drum pads, a BOSS VE-20 Vocal Performer and a Mackie Mix8 Mixer. This arguably doesn’t look as impressive as banging away on the Simmons, but BABii has more than counteracted this by the use of a large table, Roland drum pads, a pair of headphones with a mic, some knee pads, some thick silver foil and a white laser projector than beams down onto her as she performs whilst kneeling on the table. This girl is certainly thinking outside of the box. I have been continually going to gigs in Brighton since 1978 and as far as I can recall, this is the very first time that I personally have witnessed an artist performing a set whilst kneeling down on a table on top of a stage.
Her 55 minute performance tonight commenced at 9:44pm with BABii aka Daisy Emily Warne informing us that she used to reside in Brighton. Rumour has it that this was to do with art direction, photography and graphic designing for a number of clients, one of which was apparently Lick Yogurt.
The first floor concert room at The Albert was packed for this performance, as it had also been for the support act Grove who we will discuss shortly.
BABii played nine select numbers for us lucky punters this evening. Five of these can be found on her current album ‘MiiRROR’ which you can check out HERE. There was only one tune left in the set from her unusually titled ‘iii+’ mini album from last year, that was ‘SNAKE’. There was a tune from her GLOO project with Iglooghost and Kai Whiston, namely the 2019 track ‘Drown U’. The remaining two songs performed tonight are new. There was the new single ‘ZERO’ which dropped on 21st October and the even newer ‘LiiTE’ which was only completed the night before the commencement of this tour and so is currently unreleased. This latter track was one of my two favourites from her set and hopefully signals an even better quality of material for future release. The other favourite being her closing (encore) number ‘BRUiiSE’ from the 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album, which strangely reminded me of the haunting melody from the ‘American Beauty’ film by Thomas Newman.
Another BABii number tonight ‘SHADOW,’ also reminded me of ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ by Shanks & Bigfoot. But the overall BABii sound can be likened to that of Purity Ring with added early Grimes, the aforementioned Georgia and naturally Kate Bush. As BABii perched atop the table moved her arms and upper torso in a manner of visual art and ballet that Kate Bush (and indeed David Bowie circa 50 years ago) were to do before her. As BABii moved and hit the flat Roland drum pads on the table, the white (laser style) light streamed down on her from the above gantry and bounced off her body and especially the strong silver foil that she was kneeling on. The effect of which being that the light bounced off of the foil and hit the black Prince Albert backdrop behind her. This was in essence a simple thing to do, but gave dramatic results.
The BABii sound is an innovative blend of ethereal dream pop interspersed with thudding beats and heavenly beautiful vocals. I, like many others present in this full room, was totally transfixed with her BABii’s memorable performance of tabletop ballet.
For two separate numbers, BABii stood up upon the table and had a long thin twirling rod dance white ribbon, the kind used in rhythmic art gymnastics and as a ballet streamer, this was used to great effect.
BABii had indeed warmed our hearts with her performance. She (once again) came across as a very likeable person and the whole crowd certainly warmed to her. The set concluded at 10:39pm and we set off into the cold Brighton air, a hell of a lot warmer than we had been on entering the venue.
‘TRACKS’ (from 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album)
‘SNAKE’ (from 2020 ‘iii+’ mini album)
’DRiiFT’ (from 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album)
‘WASTE’ (feat. Iglooghost) (from 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album)
‘Drown U’ (from 2019 ‘XYZ’ mini album by GLOO aka Iglooghost, Kai Whiston & BABii)
‘SHADOW’ (from 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album)
‘ZERO’ (from 2021 ‘Zero’ single)
‘BRUiiSE’ (from 2021 ‘MiiRROR’ album)
As mentioned earlier, the support act tonight was Grove who hails from Bristol and states that: “Vocalist/producer Grove exists in the intersection of hip-hop, electronic, club and being a big gay head”.
Tonight, Grove took to the Prince Albert stage at 8:40pm and performed a 50 minute set, which was only five minutes shy of that from BABii. The setup being Grove on vocals with partner EJ on Novation knobs (especially the bass ones!)
Svelte and tattooed Grove was clad in a mock leopard skin cropped top and matching trousers for the performance. Grove threw the shapes whilst rapping and singing away to a packed crowd who bounced away to da choonz. The half Jamaican, quarter Irish quarter English Grove informed us that they were proud to be gay as they warmly interacted with the punters.
Grove was in charge of the laptop, whereas other half EJ, who was sporting a daring leather strapped bra with taped up nipples, was in charge of the Novation unit which threw out “demonic sh*t bass” as described by Grove and I for one wouldn’t argue about that. Especially as the bass was deep enough to send pint of lager flying off of the ledge behind the speakers and on to my shoes. I’m almost sure that folks in the nearby Brighton Railway Station would have heard their tunes!
This is an act that would no doubt crop up in The Great Escape in 2022. Let’s hope that they register to play (hint! hint!).
They performed tunes from their new EP called ‘Spice’ and seriously amped it up to their anthem ‘F@ck Ur Landlord’, which carries the repeated line “Off off off off with the head”, which was my choice of cutz from their eleven tune set. Also of note was final number ‘Ur Boyfriend’s Wack’, which had a pounding fast beat.
Although Grove is ploughing their own furrow, with the right management and exposure, it’s not conceivable that Grove won’t be a star within the next 24 months. The set finished at 9:30pm and it was an honour to be standing at the front watching it. Let’s hope for a swift return to Brighton!
Well done to promoter Love Thy Neighbour for once again delivering on the exciting new acts front!
‘Feed My Desire’
‘Black’ (ft Grizo)
‘F*ck Ur Landlord’
‘Ur Boyfriend’s Wack’
Find Grove’s work on Soundcloud.
Further BABii reading:
Music has always been a mirror for electronic pop adventurer BABii – a place where “I can dig out demons from the basement of my brain and set them on fire,” as the singer-producer puts it.
Among her songs’ skittering beats and fractured synths are reflections of her deepest self that she wouldn’t otherwise know how to access. “It’s always a cathartic process that helps my mind feel less dusty and disorganised,” the Margate artist explains. “But this album was definitely a new extreme.”
She’s talking about ‘MiiRROR’ – a record, book and accompanying alternate reality game that required new heights of self-reflection to create. Written, produced and creative-directed by the production polymath, real name Daisy Emily Warne, ‘MiiRROR’ explores “the duality of emotions: good and bad, light and dark” across ten songs and a story full of demons and junk yards. The tale it tells may be fantastical, pulling fans through oil-smudged cities and glistening opaline clouds towards a climax in a beat-up transit truck, but it’s a universe built on real-life heartache – not so much a demon fire, but a brutal, beautiful inferno.
“I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be, a secret, do you want to keep me?” asks Warne over eerie echoes and hard-like melodies on ‘WASTE’, before tracing “the tracks in the dirt where you left me” moments later.
Abandonment is at the heart of this haunting record because Warne grew up without a mother, raised in Yorkshire, Kent and Canada by a nomadic father who, after quitting a potential career playing ice hockey, hustled his way through life, turning his hand to antique dealing and building and renting out a warehouse space to creatives.
When her mother later re-entered her life, “a lot of things went unsaid – until one day when I finally had this confrontation with her.” The tidal wave of emotions unleashed by that interaction sparked something in Warne, who decided to devote her next project to exorcising those demons. “I wanted to confront both my negative and positive feelings towards her: the dark reality and the idyll that as a kid I had in my head.”
From that seed, grew an aesthetic exploration of opposites. 808 bass booms beneath delicate, celestial chords. Lyrics about shadows pirouette around glimpses of light. Audio samples move forwards, then in reverse, woven seamlessly into the fabric of Warne’s pristine production. “It began as this exercise in symmetry and spiralled utterly out of control,” she laughs, nodding to the extracurricular materials that started to blossom around the songs as her imagination ran away from her. Warne noticed overlaps between the tracks and a story that she had begun writing as a teenager and began crafting a book that expands on and compliments the tale on the record. The result is a nostalgic, ambitious and affecting world to explore: one of the most imaginative and immersive new voices in the UK music underground, inviting you to step through the looking glass of her unusual childhood via sound, story and image.
Those who’ve been following the rise of BABii will see ‘MiiRROR’ as a natural next step for an artist who’s always endeavoured to build worlds around her music. Ever since announcing herself to the world with 2018 single ‘PHANTOM’ and 2019 debut album ‘HiiDE’, the songwriter – championed by BBC Radio 1, 6 Music, Loud and Quiet, The Quietus, Clash and The Line of Best Fit among others – has revelled in creating visuals for her tracks that allude to wider universes, housing her songs in neon-splashed lands that teeter between utopia and dystopia.
Whether stepping out alone or as part of creative collective GLOO, with whom she released a scintillating 2019 album titled ‘XYZ’, Warne’s artwork is often otherworldly.
Her self-directed videos meanwhile, such as the ones that accompanied her brilliant 2020 EP ‘iii+’, are equally transportative: in the alluring visual for ‘SNAKE’, Warne pounds electronic drum pads from smoky post-apocalyptic roadsides, embers dancing in the evening sky behind her. This love of world-building is rooted in a childhood spent playing around a “a big dusty warehouse and salvage yard” that had a replica medieval village built inside of. “I used to roller skate around these rusty beds of nails. It’s lucky I didn’t get tetanus. It was quite wild. There was a lot of stimulus in that building and weird objects, and crazy artists, including one who’d make robots out of rubbish and made me make voodoo dolls out of junk,” she recalls. “It really informed the work I make now as an adult.”
It was during this time that she discovered music. Her father’s record collection was a gateway and Warne recalls formative experiences travelling round the UK delivering furniture and going to antique fairs, “sleeping in the back of a lorry and listening to bootleg tapes.”
The first instrument she played was a bugle, followed by a penny whistle (both of which drove her dad insane). Later on, a friend of her father’s gave her percussion lessons and introduced her to Carnival Club, where kids hit percussive instruments and developed understandings of rhythm. All of which helps explain the hypnotic grooves on display in songs like ‘BRUiiSE’, ‘HUNTED’ and twisted ‘90s garage homage ‘SHADOW’.
If the album has the nomadic, free-roving feel of an artist who refuses to sit still, that’s because it was created that way. BABii tracks have been written on coaches, on trains, in warehouses and beyond: “wherever I can take my laptop, basically,” says Warne. ‘MiiRROR’’s enigmatic opening track, ‘DRiiFT’, for example, was created in multiple locations.
“I decided to make something inspired by an experience I had when I was three or four,” she explains of the track. “My dad got in an argument with some boy racers, who began to throw bricks at my dad’s car as a result.” The standoff ended when their neighbour chased the aggressors away with a meat cleaver, but the damage was done: their car was a wreck of dented metal and broken glass, textures channelled in the song’s sound design.
Elsewhere on the album are tinder box explosions of dance emotion like ‘VOiiD’, which erupts into symphonic strings as it hurtles towards conclusion, and the choral, moving ‘MOTHER’, which brings the record to a close. “I purposefully drew from things I loved as a kid, like the Neverending Story,” says Warne of the album’s cinematic scale, “as well as my experience growing up in a dark, scrappy atmosphere that I often escaped from by getting sucked into these fantasy worlds. It’s an album but also a designed experience, an event. I want to do things that fulfil all your senses. I hope people can discover their own meanings in it and relate to it in their own ways.” Music has always been a mirror for BABii. She hopes this album can do the same for you.
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