Babe Rainbow aiming for something sinister
Cameron Reed is all abuzz. Considering the fact that the Straight has caught up with the local musician just three days before the release of Shaved, the debut EP from his freaked-out electronic project Babe Rainbow, his jittery behaviour is hardly surprising. Interviewed in an empty gravel lot just below artist Ken Lum’s East Van cross on Clark Drive, the artist excitedly mentions how happy he was to hold a vinyl copy of the release for the first time.
Truthfully, it’s been a relatively quick ride for Babe Rainbow; Reed only started sequencing patches of white noise and rubbery synth wobbles with the woozy slow-mo beats he made on his home computer about a year ago. Shortly after uploading his first remixes for lo-fi punkers Wavves and electro-poppers Fine Mist, as well as a couple of originals, the musician began a relationship with legendary U.K. label Warp, which subsequently announced his signing last December.
Considering its roster includes heavyweight acts such as Boards of Canada and Grizzly Bear, among others, the fact that Reed hooked up with the company after writing only a handful of songs is pretty impressive. It’s even more remarkable since he admits that he has no idea what the hell he’s doing.
“I don’t know how to make electronic music,” he says with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know how to piece together a house song. I don’t know the difference between trance and house, or what makes an ambient song an ambient song. I just know my influences.”
While Reed cites the punk rock and hip-hop he listened to while growing up as major inspirations, the latter’s influence is more prevalent on Shaved.
Opener “Popcommon” features the kind of digitized snap beat that still rules most southern-rap hits, but Reed filters out most of the swagger with his slothlike pacing and skittery noise samples. That’s not to say that the seven-song set is grooveless, though. “Tummy Sticks” thrives on soul-shaking bass thumps and cavernous click tracks, while “Celebrate” will have you shuffling nervously to its breathy zombie shrieks. Ultimately, what holds the disc together is its dedication to freaking you out.
“I think about it cinematically,” Reed says of his writing process, which involves manipulating sound samples in the audio program Ableton Live. “It gets to the point where I’m thinking, ”˜This is the soundtrack to a horror film!’
“It feels like you’re lost,” he continues. “There is a sense of urgency, but there’s also this paranoid feeling to it. I’m trying to pull people into a heroin bath, just drowning them in sound.”
Shaved’s most sense-debilitating track is its centrepiece, “Care”. Bringing to mind both the warped sensibilities of U.K. dubstep and the spooky minimalism of John Carpenter’s Halloween soundtrack, the murky number does its best to make you uncomfortable. Things get even weirder by the time a vocal sample courtesy of You Say Party! We Say Die!’s Becky Ninkovic’s multiplies like a swarm of locusts.
“That song was originally done as a remix,” Reed says, explaining that he used a sample from the group’s “Like I Give a Care”. “I took this little vocal sample and started tweaking it to sound reasonably creepy.”
Though Shaved is, for the most part, a product of the producer’s twisted vision, he is also keen on reworking other artists’ material. In conjunction with the EP’s release, Babe Rainbow is putting out a free on-line mix tape.
Fittingly titled Shaved Mixtape, the half-hour offering—co-produced by Vancouver’s DJ Rico Uno—blends the best of Babe Rainbow’s debut with vocal tracks culled from a host of hip-hop and dancehall numbers.
“I wanted it to seem like a bigger thing,” he says of releasing the sets simultaneously. “That’s not to say that the EP on its own shouldn’t be interesting enough, but I just really wanted to make it an event.”
While an uplifting vocal performance lifted from reggae artist Sizzla’s “Be Strong” transforms “Tummy Sticks” into a positive jam, Babe Rainbow’s dark tone rules the rest of the pirate radio session. A reworking of indie rapper Doom’s “Gazzillion Ear”, for instance, swaps the original’s goofy gospel organ loop for sinister industrial clankings and minor-key synth lines.
For the moment, Babe Rainbow is set on scaring people onto the dance floor. Sure, he’s excited about putting out his new disc, but no matter how happy he feels on the inside, Reed plans on keeping his music bleak.
“Leave the pop to the Swedes and the French; they do it well,” he says of his refusal to walk on the sunny side. “I’ll try to make something dark instead.”