There are moments on ‘BBF Hosted By DJ Escrow’ that feel like Chris Morris has taken control of the drum machine. Babyfather's debut is, on the surface at least, a grime-infused hip-hop album with regular interjections from (the presumably fake) DJ Escrow. But like much of main man Dean Blunt's work it blurs the lines between sincerity and parody and the surreal humour and jarring sounds could have come straight outta Blue Jam.
Let's take that opening track. ‘Stealth Intro’ is five minutes of the same spoken word loop accompanied by mobile phones ringing and police sirens. Extreme repetition has long been an element of Blunt's live show, with him often stepping out on stage and standing in silence while a single loop plays and plays and plays. It's a provocative and funny way to start a show, but here it's an invitation to skip.
Then there's Escrow himself – a wittering DJ and, by his own admission, shit MC who pops up repeatedly throughout and alternates between being funny and irritating. That is, of course, the point.
Embrace – or at least get through – this faffing about and there's lots to admire here. Blunt isn't straying too far from his comfort zone, but it's exciting to hear him in a slicker, more overtly hip-hop influenced context. ‘Meditation’ - one of several collaborations with Arca – is a straight-up grime track, while ‘Motivation’ shares its DNA with ‘Mersh’ from 2014's fantastic ‘Black Metal’. ‘God Hour’ features a lovely vocal from Micachu, filling the gap left by absent Blunt-collaborator Joanne Robertson. But most intriguing is the Blue Lines-tinged ’N.A.Z.’, with its dubby bass and hints of murder: “What you gonna do when they do a drive-by? What you gonna do, make another mum cry?”
Indeed, with whispers of “gang members” and police sirens, the record is frequently in the shadow of violence. Blunt may like winding people up – see the deranging trio of ‘PROLIFIC DEAMONS’, ‘Platinum Cookies’ and ‘Esco Freestyle’ which moves from screaming noise to a limp freestyle and into an eerie, Oneohtrix-style loop with a persistent phone-off-the-hook tone – but his music has purpose. ‘BBF Hosted By DJ Escrow’ may be the most sarcastic record Blunt has put out, but there's real emotion here amidst the baby cries and union jack hover boards.
Words: Will Salmon
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