Album of the Week: Babehoven – Demonstrating Visible Difference of Height

By Bethany Davison

Delicately crafted over a three-month devotion in the Vermont woods, Babehoven, fronted by Philadelphia songwriter Maya Bon alongside Pornog’s Ryan Albert, deliver a five track EP confronting familial struggles, new relationships and the experience of dissociation from the self. A lot to unpack in such a brief listening period leaves Bon’s vocals at the forefront of each track, with Albert’s instrumentals narrating their own complimentary soundscape, simply structured, though perfectly toned to compliment the sheer dynamism of both Bon’s vocal range and lyricism. 

“I’d rather be lost, than a loner / I wish I had the choice, anyway”, declares Bon in the EP’s opener ‘Only So’. Vocally lead and instrumentally diffident, it is almost alienated from the succeeding tracks, clearly delineating itself as the only song left un-written before recording. As such, its theme of isolation is rooted deep, immediately invoking dramatised imagery of their being alone in the woods. At points Bon’s vocals become exasperated in their climb, these moments of inflection indicative of painful catharsis, yet so intricately swaddled in raw simplicity, it invites comfort into subjects otherwise too difficult to confront. It is in this unembellished push-and-pull of self-indulgent solitude paving the soundscape that it soon becomes clear why, for Babehoven, simplicity is necessitated.

‘Confident and Kind’ underscores this sense of sonic alienation, as its dark-wooded soundscape dances in incongruity against Bon’s playful lyricism. Both a satirical ode to the self-indulgent consumerist principles of ‘self-care’ (“Went to the salon to treat myself / Searching for a way to restore my health” … “I feel awful / So much for self care”), and a grieving commentary on the difficulties of self-acceptance, Bon’s laments infuse humour into her brutally pellucid storytelling. Effortlessly tying abstract vignettes into a commentary on consumerism and the self, ‘Confident and Kind’ becomes playful in its circularity, and unexpectedly joyous despite its dark-wooded soundscape. ‘Asshole’ continues in this trend, yet overtly transcends it. It’s sedating vocals and murmuring instrumental subdue it’s biting imagery, eclipsing the brutatist imagery of bodily boundaries in new relationships, flirting in irony. 

‘Maybe I’m Bitter’ sees Bon’s voice marginally distorted, distancing her, acting as a sonic microcosm of her dissociative tendencies, a theme elevated by the abstraction in her imagery (“If I were an actor / I’d cut off all my toenails / Put them in a jar / Tell them it’s magical”). If the perceptive skill of Albert’s sound artistry was not already clear, it is deftly illuminated here. 

Walking behind a dark and droning synths, Bon’s vocals are no longer distant on ‘Close Behind’. Stretching her range beyond the parameters of comfort, as her vocals transpose in their climb, as though scaling the same emotional landscape as her lyrics, climbing out of the darkness that has underscored much of the EP: an amplified resolution. 

Delighting in darkness and humouring the most troubling parts of everyday life, ‘Demonstrating Visible Differences of Height’ is a tenderly strung triumph, as concerned with Bon’s own self-conciliation, as it is with encouraging everyone else’s.

Demonstrating Visible Differences of Height is out now

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