Some of humanity’s first attempts at music were efforts to replicate tones and sounds discovered in nature. The essence of these musical advances were an interest in the beauty and mystery of individual parcels of noise. Adam Babar’s Easily Suede project doesn’t fall in the category of Earth music, and isn’t even especially primitive, yet he displays a fascination for the world of wonder held within just one note as he wanders through the nine tracks on Role Player. The result rewards the patient listener with a simple but intricate world of curious sounds.
Babar, who is perhaps best known as the guitarist for local genre-hoppers Faun & a Pan Flute, has been making music as Easily Suede since 2011. By my count, Role Player is his fifth recording, and one that is long overdue for release, having been recorded between 2013 and 2014. Though never one to rewrite the same songs, Babar’s move from minimalist electronica to an experimental folk vibe on the new album is notable for both his change in approach and the skill with which he carries out the transition.
Babar’s sonic exploration is erratic throughout the LP, shifting from ringing telephones to insistent tape hiss. Though initially Role Player may sound like experimentation for experimentation’s sake, the earnestness with which he sings, plays and samples keeps the music from drifting into the background.
On “Dumb World,” he creates a deliciously off-kilter tune with a playful outro. The colorful dissonance invokes a circus march for millions of iPad toting, latte drinking zombies. Two songs later, he shifts into a folk-driven sound comparable to 100 Watt Horse. “Gavemyself2u” opens like a weathered music box, and the tenderness of Daniel Bailey and Heather Olsen’s guest vocals shines through the sparse song with a richness belying the minimalist nature of the album.
Despite the multitude of sounds, Role Player is more than the sum of its parts. As the record progresses, it morphs from another lo-fi side project into a meditative symphony for surrealistic yoga. The music drags the audience into various poses, which float between uncomfortable and unearthly. However, even as the listener’s spiritual body is contorted, the strange beauty of Role Player enlightens and creates an appreciation for the simplest of songs.