Baxter Dury: I Thought I Was Higher Than You – album assessment and interview
Out June 2nd
As a creation of a unique model of occasions, the affirmation of the characters that dramatise them, after which the eradication of any proof that these occasions happened, the brand new album from Baxter Dury dips out and in of sometimes weird scenes from an indie sitcom written by an English bohemian while additionally tilting not less than half his director’s cap to the modern princes of hip hop to deepen its wealthy, darkish, psychedelic journey right into a tapestry of insanity.
Gonna strive to not sound like Simon Armitage for this. All these phrases. What for?
Not that I’m knocking the Poet Laureate however, as Louder Than Conflict finds out when interviewing Baxter Dury concerning his new album, I Thought I Was Higher Than You launched subsequent month, typically the mark of a very good singer who’s assured, if snug, in their very own pores and skin – is being content material in inspecting what different personalities and opinions are encased inside that pores and skin, to see their function as an afterthought – and one that may be edited throughout the sonic striptease going down all through the creative course of. The singer is nothing particular actually.
The very course of, the very goal of which is mentioned in-depth with Louder Than Conflict, with out mentioning the what have to be infuriatingly patronising ‘Well-known Dad Symptom’ that, though maybe not a intentionally patronising opinion deliberately out to get Baxter nor particularly conceived to straight goal Baxter, and though hardly dissatisfied within the work in query as a result of it doesn’t sound sufficient like Wake Up and Make Love With Me, is sufficient of a bone of rivalry that both Baxter is sick of sucking on or the idling, illiterate journalist trapped in a particular time capsule is sick of throwing the person’s manner. The unabating parallels between son and inheritor finish on the surname.
Since day one, beginning, primarily with Completely satisfied Soup though a debut proceeded it, the shadow of that Well-known Dad was all the time stepped out of. Baxter is a samurai. A pupil. A spy. A savant. A supernatural, sociological surveyor of the half-living and half-dead. A salesman. Not simply the son of a excessive street, a blockhead, or the divine ringleader of a selected savage carnival, a selected maniacal pack, however somebody with an completely distinctive manner of perceiving the trail has completely earlier than him, together with his very personal road to shuffle alongside, his personal sequence of occasions to both invent or interpret. The plough has all the time been Baxter’s to furrow. A voice all his personal.
All these items; these methods, these bins of trustworthy costumes, are each accelerated and excelled in on the brand new album, while additionally assuring each Baxter’s ever-interested viewers, and Baxter’s ever-restless, ever-curious, ever-pricked ears – that issues can shift, that Baxter can flip his again on the previous a bit and nonetheless accomplish rattling good work, as is the mark of an artist to not scar themselves with repetition however take in the vibrating vibes of an sudden second, and try to seize it like lightning nearly shatters the bottle it’s tried to be captured in. Doubly so when the album oozes a sure mutilated brew, skewed spew of screwed-up, woozy hip-hop beats with a stiff drink in a single hand and/or a spliff/switchblade within the different.
Baxter Dury was as soon as any person’s son. With a dad everyone knows.
He nonetheless is. And he all the time will probably be as this document when magnificently unfurling, turning and racing up one road and rolling down one hill into the corners of its darkest, rawest moments will intimately, intellectually, inspiringly attest to.
However what makes the story so intimate, so mental, so impressed, is the way it doesn’t relaxation, nor loosen up for an instantaneous in what can typically be an insipidly repetitive, even vacuously unimaginative try to affiliate one determine (dad) with one other determine (son), and overlook that the latter has reached implausible peaks distinctly on his personal. There was no dad there to get the document deal, no dad to put in writing the songs.
Though this time round, the roles had been reversed, the scripts rearranged. A son was concerned. Baxter’s son Cosmo.
Right here now we have disorientating, nightmarish hip-hop, spaghetti hoop grooves oozing in every single place, the trademark baritone snarl, the cracked-caramel croon, the Mr. Maserati-on-Mo’ Wax cig-and-whisky stained bark, each Ladbroke Grove and L.A, West London and West Coast America spliced collectively when every fascinating blast dashes itself out when the cube are rolled onto the ground, making it a match made in heaven the place the underground supermarkets reign supreme as the specified nightclub of selection.
It may very well be argued this complete factor began with Miami.
Or it may’ve began with DOA, a track Baxter co-wrote together with his son throughout the lockdown. “There’s a bit little bit of that form of factor. I used to be simply form of foraging round. One thing new. Not new as such however I used to be uninterested in the cycle. If I’d have finished one thing precisely the identical I might’ve stamped such a familiarity on it. Additionally, I really feel there’s lots of people in a well-known development in the intervening time”, he divulges.
It really begins with So A lot Cash. A pointy-edged, sardonic, somnambulant gemstone shining seductively on a sea of milk beats ,and an aching arsenal of brass wheezes away within the background surrounded in shrouds of basement smoke. It takes a seemingly random flip on the street, paving the way in which to a darkish alleyway the place the membership booms with house and bass, illuminated by blinking neon indicators shaking in lime inexperienced.
Though not eager to unleash a chunk of diatribe in opposition to what Baxter confirms to be “quite a lot of narrative-based, blokey, indie sort discuss music”, there’s the possibility that teams who adhere to that paradigm will probably be castigated as being, the sincerity of their narrative and musical skill apart, a narrative-based, indie-type talk-music group. A gaggle that recites their procuring checklist over a bassline and drumbeat with astounding plight, like Sisyphus eternally pushing the rock up Tartarus as a result of Hades has had a hissyfit. “Perhaps sufficient folks do it higher. I’m certain I’m nonetheless doing it however I used to be delusional sufficient for me to really feel fascinating once more”, he sometimes, poetically, self-deprecatingly proclaims. “I used to be desirous about myself”.
Whether or not or not that’s both genuine or unworthy music isn’t for me, nor Baxter, to essentially decide. However he’s conscious of the formulaic nature of that indie beast and decides to do issues anew, to fall out of the cycle, to interrupt free from the chain wanting to encase Baxter’s ankle in it’s hip grip as one other bloke who talks, as one other unusual man who narrates, as one other man who composes procuring checklist sonnets for the cloud hovering above him.
Even when he’s conscious of the cloud, the cloud of formulation, “that also is my schtck” he admits. And even when conscious, maybe all too conscious, about how critique inside indie, inside pop, inside punk and submit, can change into however a boring case of contextual, generational finger-wagging, doubly so when the finger wags itself sufficient to the purpose it pokes the nostril, inconsiderately, inconsistently, inaccurately splinters it’s tip and leaves little to the subjective creativeness, there’s nonetheless an unwillingness to take a seat nonetheless, to compromise.
Such a forward-thinking and fruitful interpolation of the artist into a brand new ambiance, such welcomed interpretations of the songs born there, such a way of itchiness and execution was within the air for the viewers’s perceptions ready to be stretched and positively satiated by the misleading, dexterous complexities, the beguiling allure belied by daft, rambling abstraction, the mysterious chest of treasures that exist throughout the tunes, that Baxter had little selection than to stare self-sabotage head on and say ‘come at me’. “I used to be making an attempt to form of fancy it up a bit, season it, for self-motivational causes” he reveals. “In any other case, it simply turns into a little bit of a grind. I don’t need to hear me in the identical format all the factor”.
However Baxter won’t ever be ‘one other’ – fuck being ‘one other’ model of ‘one other’ model of ‘one other’ model. And apart from, he doesn’t narrate, he curates. “I’m curating it and greater than I’m narrating it. I’m like Beetlejuice popping up in my very own album. Morph into somebody. A bizarre, inconsistent curator”, he decides.
I might hate to say that is the primary time Baxter Dury has been into hip-hop. All of his albums possess that considerably dreamlike, disorienting, darkish passage to the indulgent, afterlife within the gritty metropolis sort of vibe. Folks appear to be latching onto the concept rapidly he’s discovered the likes of hip-hop’s modern kings like Charlie XCX or Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean or Danny Brown, A$AP Rocky or JPEGMafia, however they had been launched someplace alongside the road. Injected into Baxter’s bloodstream as if it was a much-needed prescription right into a heritage of music he was uncovered to, however not absolutely conscious of how important it was, or how closely settled it step by step grew to become in his unconscious potion pots of artistic vitality.
It’s most definitely because of his son throughout Lockdown when DOA was brewed up, and bent folks’s preconceptions of what Dury, the Renaissance man, the beat poet with a racing mind no quantity of cig breaks or stiff drinks can suppress chomping on, as a result of it’s on these cig breaks, and when ready for the drink you’ve simply ordered that the concepts, the observations, are ripe to be refined. That is each what folks anticipated, and didn’t count on. An excellent factor.
However Baxter is fast, rightfully fast, to kick away any sort of accusations, that all of the sudden Baxter is now the whitest beat rapper within the room. “It’s a really distinct acknowledgment to hip-hop. It’s not hip-hop. Hip-hop is one thing you possibly can dwell and breathe and also you convey by sociological experiences. I’ve kidnapped among the power of it. However what’s good about hip-hop is that you may have these form of skeletal backing tracks, and permits any person to form of rap excessive and provides it an actual platform to say your factor. It allowed me to experiment. Regardless that it’s an invisible melody I’m utilizing, it’s a melody to me. It isn’t hip-hop. It’s provincial. Essentially the most provincial model of hip-hop you’ll find for a West London Nepo child”.
These invisible melodies are replete all through the whole album. Typically making it troublesome to decipher if it’s really Baxter or the eventual house that distant acknowledgment reaches when the solar both comes up or lastly decides to descend over the underground, metropolitain anthills Baxter astutely observes on his travels. These melodies, nonetheless imaginary, allow Baxter to let himself be wrapped up in, and wrap himself across the tracks. It’s an invisible melody that paints the face of considered one of Baxter’s vocal experiments, enabling the voice to emerge as if it belongs to another person.
He emerges as both extra sinister or much less critical than earlier than however nonetheless perceptively penetrating the guts of the query with one thing completely poignant, extraordinary in how widespread the thought has been captured like a poetic butterfly lured into the open jar, and equally extraordinary in the way it comes throughout as one thing apparently pulled from nowhere, solely augmenting its sharp-witted, street-smart, surrealistic attract.
It’s the mark of a intelligent musician to steal what’s required, a thief that is aware of its place, a kleptomaniac that doesn’t overstay their welcome within the palace of pleasant, musical trinkets, to then persuade everybody that what’s been stolen belongs rightfully to them, as a result of in any other case there’s an instantaneous whiff of one thing off lingering within the air like hotdog and doughnut fats falling by way of the tray, feeding itself by way of the ventilators situated down some slim alleyway behind a humongous retail park. You do certainly get a way of with the ability to see it straight away as a result of you possibly can see when individuals are carrying the wrong-sized pair of footwear. They give the impression of being actually uncomfortable.
However folks, regardless of that pair of footwear consuming their heels, put on them anyway because it offers them with a motive to affix the ranks of one thing that feels incongruous and improper based on how the whole operation, the entire journey, capabilities like an anthropological imposter observing a competition of metalheads in a parka, or digging even deeper when class backgrounds change into concerned, underpinned by such revelatory subcultural connections which can be thought of no extra as icing that may be rearranged to go well with the particular event of the cake. “It’s very awkward when somebody takes one thing inappropriately or thinks they’re representing one thing they’re not. Whether or not you suppose you’re working-class or middle-class or no matter”, Baxter proclaims. ‘”It doesn’t match. It’s a clumsy factor. You’re doing it to make your self really feel totally different. You possibly can inform. It needs to be pure”.
It’s fascinating to have the ability to admire I Thought I Was Higher Than You in all of its cocky, however not too cocky, capability in a manner which, privately, Evening Chancers could effectively have finished, however publicly by no means had a shot in hell as doing as a result of Pandemic placing halt to all the things. A lot has modified. Extra to cost. Much less cables. Much less personnel. Regardless of Baxter, ever the pragmatic, if thoughtful overthinker exposing these choices to strip issues again to the naked minimal, musically and when it comes to folks energy, calling it ‘de-unionising’.
“Evening Chancers was a unique expertise. There was quite a lot of work put into it. Numerous guys with cables and at that time I used to be very pleased with that state of affairs” he says. “Nevertheless it was fairly sacrificial because it got here out the day the lockdown was introduced. You simply needed to breathe in and get on with it. It by no means had gentle. It doesn’t actually really feel prefer it had an opportunity. I’ve performed just a few songs from it dwell, however not that many instances. Perhaps ten instances I’ve performed just a few of these songs dwell, and I actually like taking part in them dwell however that’s about it. It by no means actually had a spot to breathe”.
An album can solely actually change into itself, as soon as it’s had time to develop up in entrance of individuals. It might probably solely change into itself if it has a chance to dwell in that interval of being launched and being realised dwell, being heard. Then it takes on a lifetime of its personal. The Evening Chancers from 2020, though critically acclaimed, was launched throughout a really peculiar interval when the world was dangerously, spectacularly seesawing between actual and pretend every day, however felt like an limitless, liminal loop of doomed information with the occasional piece of music, the odd spark slicing by way of the darkish coming by way of that stated a lot in regards to the state of the day however did so with out turning into some proselytising, pontificating ape. “Albums get reviewed effectively, or badly, or no matter however actually they’ve their probability to essentially fall into one thing in between folks listening to them and other people seeing them, then the true character evolves after which you possibly can mirror again on whether or not it was a very good or unhealthy album. Nevertheless it was a lure of bizarre circumstances”, he says.
Despite these circumstances, DOA was made. It was the teaser, displaying just a few tooth in the course of all this carnage, calamity, and noise. “Properly, the momentum builds from that time. Particularly on this style of music”, Baxter considers as the primary comfortable spot albums can typically hit when let off the leash, a leash wound in and in and in throughout the intervals of isolation that many throughout the universe hysterically felt to be the tip of days, the place the Dying Earth subgenre was realised dwell. “It’s all about what occurs, who what when and why, the place you had been. The motion behind it as necessary. As a theoretical piece of music, it’s effective however it doesn’t – fuck it. I like shifting ahead. Not fascinated with previous stuff”.
Now, this time round, there’s loads of motion, quite a lot of situational sketches, non-linear recitations of occasions suspended in a dreamland with an odd, violent gentle beaming by way of it. Baxter’s lyrical skill, his semantic acrobatics all the time succeeds in placing his finger upon the heartbeat of, then squashing it a bit bit extra to stretch that sketch into bizarre, new shapes of brilliance endlessly brimming with photos as every clear and sharp bar cruises into one other.
The album itself is produced by Paul White. In Baxter’s phrases “a freethinking dude, very relaxed, and a peaceable dude to be round”. It was White (Danny Brown producer and half of Golden Guidelines) who gave Baxter a sort of permission to create the document, while additionally changing into an architect employed to construct the right sorts of buildings and platforms for Baxter to bounce off. “I had quite a lot of songs however he could make beats breathe and really feel fairly pure. He’s good at simply letting issues be. He doesn’t overthink it”.
Typically lyricists fall into the lure of utilizing too many phrases. It lingers too lengthy. It cuts it lifeless. However right here, and with quite a lot of Baxter’s work, there was a feat of self-discipline all through to ensure simply sufficient lyrics are used that, when intertwined within the otherworldly, melodically encompassing areas typically occupied by Madeline Hart, makes Baxter’s opinion of himself as secondary to the entire present much more fascinating. “It’s referred to as Simon Armitage Issue. I don’t even know who the fuck Simon Armitage is however I believe he would possibly the poet Laureate. I simply heard him rattling on the opposite day and he’s meant to rattle on as a result of that’s his sport however if you happen to go to Simon Armitage, whoever Simon Armitage is, it fucks it principally”.
As soon as fucked, it may well weigh heavy in opposition to the physique of an album, that flash of magic flicked away like a fly breezing up in opposition to the cheek however was going to whisper you the that means of life. “You don’t wanna go too Simon Armitage. It’s all self-considered stuff. It might probably burden the music if you happen to put in an excessive amount of element. If there’s an excessive amount of accountability, it takes away type of the thriller I discover”.
It makes one marvel if Baxter, all the time the wordsmith, by no means quick on a lyric even when, off-duty however on-record, finds it troublesome to determine what works, to take away himself after one line is a line too many and a large number has been product of the circulation of all of it as soon as the mark has been overstepped. “I don’t prioritise me in any respect. I’m an afterthought” he reveals in regards to the nature of his presence, and affect when a track is sizzling. “I get the vibe of the track proper first, and I believe that, to me, is the circulation of it. The melody of it and the way it sounds. I simply must weave out and in of it naturally”.
But when there’s a suspicion that Baxter has overstayed his welcome, as all the opposite metaphorical friends at this musical ceremonial dinner are busy having a whale of a time however Baxter is busy making a complete dick of himself with one too many unhealthy one-liners after one too many drinks, it escapes with a uncooked crumb of dignity or be destroyed perpetually. “If I’m not meant to be there I get again out”.
But fear not, the basic Baxter babble is undamaged, regardless of how replete the tunes are with it, the phrases that bounce up and down and off all factors of the track, in moments of tranquility or restlessness, stay ever-entertaining. “I believe a few of it goes off on that factor, the circulation of it needs to be free-form I believe as effectively. After I write it, I strive to not over-consider it”.
Are we speaking in regards to the stream of consciousness?
“There are moments of it” he confirms. “However the moments go into modern, real-time. Speaking about myself after which I’m off once more. It’s fairly beat poetry, Nineteen Sixties pretentiousness”.
Between real-time, and Baxter’s time, a time solely he can inform, the songs are quick however take us on such large journeys. The journey of the day ghosts, with the lengthy faces, the anarchic actions of that are recounted on Aylesbury Boy – if Burroughs wrote Bleak Home or Dickens wrote Bare Lunch.
Intricate, intertwining lives outlined from one piece of motion to the following. As a feat of imaginative genius to condense all that into three minutes or much less of pop, Leon cackles and erupts with the form of strut that may soften tarmac and shatter store home windows.
It’s within the nature of any beat poet to have the ability to examine what lurks behind the doorways of notion. Within the nature of these sorts of writers, Baxter included as our personal distinctive class of that, a weird beatbox filled with cryptograms graffitied to the surfaces of Ladbroke Grove to interrogate the opposite aspect. By blurring collectively the semi-autobiographical vignettes that color in our existence, with an odd, self-inflicted pseudo-psychological technique unprecedented on this whirling earth, he accomplishes telling a narrative about himself and everybody else, issues about nothing, issues about all the things.
It’s the darkish, sullied coronary heart of those half-lies and the shimmering soul of those half-truths that makes Baxter’s world a captivating one to get a quick glimpse into; all the time shocking, the scene throughout the story with new arrivals of destabilising element and brain-derailing character profiles that work so splendidly effectively when captured in these socially related oddities, these acidic snippets of historical past because it occurred, or has occurred, or will occur.
Take Crashes that swaggers like a flamboyant alligator, it’s malicious da-da-da refrain and fantastic harmonic heat in some way blunting the sharp blade of Baxter’s drawl, half-here, half-there, half-him, half-someone else, but nonetheless persists in inserting the blade into the again: ‘wham! you slammed right into a parked Tesla/ there’s a person who seems to be like a minotaur’ or ‘your face is a tomb of unlikely guarantees, that can by no means be opened, our secrets and techniques are perpetually’.
Or the sinister present tune of Shadow, beginning life as an uncaring sport of hopscotch in opposition to the Yellow Brick Highway, however quickly takes a flip for the worst because it tumbles into the mental drug dens of hell, all downtempo sunsets, smoky robotic brass, and psilocybin snares: ‘prisoner of well-known dad and mom/ help the popularity/ legacy of sophistication imposters/ baritone chancers/ gangster’s fantasies/ human Jenga/ fragile males/ sharp heads in basements having fun with tragedy’.
However that’s what Baxter discovered so alluring, so compelling, within the arsenal he was uncovered to when conjuring up what would lastly change into this new document – the darkish shit, the mad shit, the daft shit, the shit that flips over and unfolds in methods we weren’t actually ready for. “I used to be listening to quite a lot of issues like Kendrick advert stuff which fits out and in of actually darkish shit. He’s acquired these actually angsty moments. They go in-between faith, sexuality and all that shit. Fairly fucking deep and darkish. Nevertheless it goes out and in of songwriting language which I get pleasure from” excitedly reveals Baxter, clearly impressed by what that distant homage to hip hop has newly dropped on him like a screwdriver in a carpenter’s holster.
The rambling, rummaging, dialectical feedback that litter the album are open-ended ones, purposeful throughout the framework of how Baxter could view the world, however pointless in a manner as these questions don’t actually reply something. “In case you’re desirous about how the world works, then you definitely see it in a bizarre manner. It’s good to touch upon it” he confirms.
Perhaps they had been rhetorical, however both manner, they elevate sure photos, and concepts, within the thoughts about who does what, about what goes the place…but nonetheless “it doesn’t actually reply something. It has no actual, deep social commentary that’s legitimate to anybody. It’s a sort of Pinocchio nonsense”.
The extra that picture of Pinocchio tells extra lies, the extra the nostril grows and pokes folks on the arse and will get aggravated at that; coming from the in-between of profound readability, bohemian lyricism, and odd, psychedelic existence.
Issues transfer as if they’re indomitable forces of sonic nature, menacing spells arresting the senses, rambunctiously ricocheting in opposition to basements of chrome steel, an aroused feast of romantic poems chopped up by a beatnik’s psychic cleaver. However what strikes, tricking us into pondering the track shall stay the identical, melts into one thing hellish and unsuspected, a visit hazard for the thoughts as it’s pressured to confront the cool, new portals, the feral, lysergic underbelly of wherever the tune takes us from one brazen bar to the following.
Honest begins off with a dumb drum machine and piano-driven piece of ice cream pop, with the optimism of the van turning across the nook of the road you reside on – however all of the sudden takes a tumble deep down into the footwells of a demented thoughts with a knife between its tooth. The nice and cozy, busy bass dissolves right into a sinister flickering of clicking fingers and anthropodic laughter. The sugary voice of Madeline metamorphoses and warps right into a state of unrecognisable deformity as she takes a sip of the bottle that claims ‘Drink Me’, and shrinks into madness. A psychedelic interval earlier than Pale White Nissan, a trippy twinkling of keys glimmer away earlier than a streak of seismic bass lasers is beamed into the ground, in flip breaking the pavement away, purrs into view and parks its automotive like a tosser throughout two areas.
What about these fabulous singles Baxter has put out? Liam…sorry Leon is without doubt one of the finest items of music he has made; what a reduction it may be king of the roost’s groove in a manner that Miami was, that bruised, bloodied swagger unable to withstand the tingles of the neon night time, the insanity of escapades in ultraviolent drama. “Leon’s fairly autobiographical. Some city mythologising stuff. It’s additionally used to form of…not expose any inadequacies however simply to form of say – awkward moments. It’s about awkward moments. Nevertheless it’s an actual second. It leans into truths” tells Baxter.
Not that I used to be suggesting that the album wasn’t about actual moments, however the notion of merely leaning in opposition to, or trying into, a room the place the image frames or the furnishings is organized like truths to be both sat on or shat on is an unimaginable concept – to nudge a fact, to acknowledge a fact then deny it entry to the membership, is one thing that few writers can do effectively, Leon sitting within the highlight right here, and if you understand the place Baxter comes from, then you understand who it’s about…form of. We’re solely leaning into truths keep in mind? Not sleeping with them.
And so Leon peacocks alongside the floor, sticky within the solar simply because it drops behind a constructing, Liam’s…sorry Leon’s reflection all puffy from an excessive amount of pretension, too many downloaded playlists, too many scripted conversations with the mirror, even the reflection within the division retailer window creases with laughter on the grotesque poseur in its view. Then, it in some way flips the streets over to disclose the darkish grasp of the psychedelic underbelly, undressed by Baxter in a manner his phrases all the time hit the nail on the pinnacle of.
After which one other nail, then one other. Distorting the portraits of the folks and the locations he stalks, as a technique of option to channel that voice that places the likes of Liam…sorry, Leon in his place. The story of a class-mate Baxter knew who robbed a pair of shades from Boots on Kensington Excessive Road within the mid-80s and the way each guardian and legislation enforcement handled the case, in a position to swerve down totally different instructions of Baxter’s unconscious excessive road.
Aylesbury Boy observes the world from the passenger seat of a automotive with a personality that, like very actually in Pale White Nissan, dented Baxter’s childhood, a journey urgent itself palm in opposition to Baxter’s experiences as he grew up. Tricksy being the identify of the drug vendor’s girlfriend that took Baxter to highschool. The headmaster of which may’ve been Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka animated by Hayao Miyazaki.
“Aylesbury is a little bit of a round-up actually. A round-up of being there, coming from there, conferences of each folks, however they’re fairly assured, it’s a bit complicated’ articulates Baxter. Not fairly certain, but additionally completely certain of the place the track’s origins are, fast to deflate or dart away from, the precise, factual calibre of his talents to cats new lights on issues the cloak has been concealing for too lengthy. His questions can typically flip into solutions of nice poignancy. “I actually don’t reply something, I sort of query issues. They’re fairly vanity-based questions” he says, untangling the extent, and extremity, of what his general function, or obligation right here when stationed at this submit, really is.
These questions – and they’re questions, some with out solutions, some with out nasty argument – all arrive, dosed and loaded with a way of urgency, precision, astute cool credibility from the arresting, bohemian edge, penned from the pre-piss up, and post-apology gallows while making an attempt to lock the ultimate button of the trousers earlier than the entire world tumbles down, that allows Baxter to exit the scene down the hearth escape simply as cynicism swoops in to take its place. What appearances are price protecting as much as the extent they nearly kill us? What figment, fragment, or fictitious masks is price protecting well-worn and damaging atop the determine? What flights of fancy and merciless video games of destiny lead us into the pulsating chambers of the night time, solely to get up being spanked by a seabass on the shores of self-inflicted malignance and verbosity?
It’s a cool poking of the stomach belonging to the native charmers stood on a chair in a crowd of oldsters with chagrinned grins and their egos on cost. A looped bass groove lassoes playful vocals that stretch the perceptions of what shapes Baxter can shake himself into, while additionally reinforcing his skill as a singer to maintain a good share of the tune within the fingers of Madaline who performs a sure guide of vocal wonders, the theatrical and the melancholic, ever the right counterpart to Baxter’s earnest vocal, his low howl. And everybody goes ‘yah’.
Does he ever get cynical? Cynical at what’s occurred to the place he got here from? “There’s a form of pastel-jumpered tradition right here. West London is barely disadvantaged of what it was”, he says. However in relation to music, he’s something however. He understands there’s extra to the pastel-jumpers, the indie youngsters, and the artwork colleges than meets the attention. “I imply I’m fairly open-minded and inspiring. Particularly music. If it’s a child making music I’d by no means, ever say something about that. I’m by no means dismissive about anybody else’s music I discover it a bit too merciless”, he admits.
Rejoice Me reaches the peaks of that distant model of the hip-hop vibes foregrounded by way of Baxter’s distinctive lens. “It’s form of private. Caught between criticism and pre-empting criticism. It’s additionally a bit about overinflating one’s potential. ‘Have a look at me, have a look at me, have a look at me – who am?’ Being very confidently susceptible”, says Baxter. “It’s not essentially nearly me. It’s a few faculty of individuals. A kind of character. It’s not additionally in protection of ‘Oh my god I’ve emotions as effectively’ form of shit as a result of I couldn’t give a fuck about that. It’s fairly summary. Disingenuous confidence. That form of bravado. The place your vulnerability is within the improper place”.
About him, and likewise not about him, it hovers a lens maximised to examine on the predictably bohemian elite prowling across the subterranean artwork dens that solely allow entrance with a membership, while additionally questioning why he rapidly finds his vulnerability with its boxers round its ankles and a cig between the lips, wincing at existence, fixating with becoming it, but all the time in some way falling out of one thing.
A lens trying on the world, taking a look at a mutated imaginative and prescient of bohemia, warped by all that sparkles and slumbers throughout the metropolis partitions with Baxter tapping in opposition to the glass home windows the place fact twists one thing candy into its wrists, the place his West London lexicon is let unfastened over a platform virtually left uncooked, a dizzying, distorted look of one thing incomplete with just a few bricks and contours on it however, and this helps to guarantee to the purpose of the track is completely matched, is woozily, wonkily, left at simply that, a backing observe.
However don’t let that idiot you. The backing observe is one all the things enjoys getting kinky and violent and brash on. A respiratory house for perfectly-timed spillage within the aisles to do their factor. It juggles from effervescent, maniacal digital spectres and a spell of spooky, cyber-femme fatale vocals, infectiously latching onto the ear like a leech to the neck of a flatulent Egyptian.
Perhaps probably the most real facets of life, a life based on Baxter, the beat of unimaginable disingenuous confidence, of assured vulnerability, can get misconstrued as solely that – as solely a field of puzzle items from totally different puzzles that don’t circulation as one, that fail to suit homogeneously. However they will all be assembled into footage of utmost honesty. Baxter can emote remotely with a particular sort of spectral humility from his nonsensical riverbank, and in flip, delivery a superb array of truths, however a lot extra fascinating, and impressed than wiping his snotty nostril on his stripy shirt sleeve within the identify of such well-worn wank mantras as ‘I’ve acquired a coronary heart too, y’know?’
A staple vocal presence that compliments even intensifies the rogue, open areas skulking all through every second belongs to Madeline Hart, however new collaborators have cruised by way of the doorways this time with Eska and JGrrey’s vocal talents (on Pale White Nissan) additionally function on the album. “They had been sort of folks across the manor actually. We did it in Deptford and Deptford is a wholly totally different expertise from the place I’m from. It’s the opposite aspect of the world”, Baxter remembers. “A few of these characters who had lived there all their lives had been simply a part of the method. It was good coz it’s acquired a little bit of a unique character to it than the comfortable, West London pomposity fraternity that I belong to. It provides a bit extra realness to it”.
Crowded rooms, a track of social claustrophobia, slowly empties itself, soundtracked to a tragic home ballad, lonesome piano misplaced and searching for fingers to really feel its keys, peppered by footsteps of thumping drum machines. Glows glistens and crackles with the decision of some hallucinogenic forests. A lo-fi hymnal comprised of historic woodwind and glitchy birdsong as a stunning acoustic guitar struggles to let go of 1 chord because it cradles into one other, Madeline’s voice, the one voice for the track, wraps all of it up in ribbons and bandages earlier than kissing complete factor on the brow.
I Thought I Was Higher Than You confronts what was as soon as an excessive amount of to be confronted. Some aspect of the self too uncooked to disclose and decide to the cuttings of a document. Too emotionally mountainous, too psychologically dislodging to essentially indulge, and reveal with folks. However alongside got here a necessity for a brand new vibe that actually enticed Baxter into believing that the canvas earlier than him was a clean slate with just a few anecdotes, childhood snapshots, unsure truths, and sure fictitious tales on the sting of each sanity and society to spray in opposition to it.
Right here, he was discovered stripping away a few of his histories however nonetheless glancing at them by way of a psychological peephole, in some way revealing extra about how his thoughts, and musical creativeness, and the way it all clicks into place. And now, the time and place are completely primed for Baxter to undress and bounce within the bathe and strip himself naked to the soul as a way to expose, and take in, all he has been ready to insurgent in opposition to the concept of reflecting on for thus lengthy. Higher to be actual than a reproduction.
Okay, perhaps I appeared like fucking Simon Armitage in any case. Soz.
Photographs by Tom Beard ©
Phrases by Ryan Walker
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