I’ll admit, Baekma were a new one to me. With an album entitled ‘Disaster Matinee’, I was immediately intrigued. Their self-described ‘post-rock, punk, indie-pop’ sound scared me a bit- could such a sound exist?
Baekma are Stephanie Bankston, Maggie Devlin, Eilis Frawley, & Mike McGrath, a multinational setup based in Seoul, with members hailing from across the globe: the US, the UK, Australia and lovely Northern Ireland. Different musical backgrounds and interests are forged together to create an album which is really quite unique; a real tour de force that is as impressive as it is perplexing.
The collection as a whole is, in many ways, very coherent. On first listen however, each track surprises with its distinct, individual personality. The sound world remains largely the same throughout and it is only after a few listens that one can begin to really realise what the band set out to achieve with this record. Aggravated, euphoric, angry, mad… all words which describe the album at various points. The fun comes from the many dramatic twists and turns – it’s a real rollercoaster for the listener.
Computer opens the EP and starts off sounding like the band are jamming idly. This chilled opening is suddenly shattered and the madness ensues. Energetic in every sense, the vocal writing at the beginning, the two lines sometimes parallel, sometimes divergent, is beautifully done. Swirling synths and intense percussion support witty, inventive lyrics (‘Torrential download, oh my sites!’) Marriage of Convenience is brimming with discontentment, littered suitably with tempo, texture and mood shifts. Invisible is the first real ‘pop’ track on the record and even before the opening lyric, (‘I’m not coming to your show cause I don’t wanna fuck you) the track was a winner for me. The instrumental interludes and the recurring melodic idea are really catchy and the mash-up of acoustic drum rolls and electronic beats works well. Again, the lyrics are so inventive, if not always entirely coherent. The cowbell in Baskets had me hooked from the outset. This track has a real summer, carefree vibe. Listening to it as the rain lashed my window made me want to book an impromptu holiday. The lovely vocal writing here is stand out and this track has some of the most polished melodic writing on the EP. So accessible, it is easily the most poppy of the tracks on the record. Some steel drum playing would not have gone a miss.
The stomping bass drum vying with the lofty guitar playing in Before This Place is a real attention grabber. Full of attitude, this track has many little gems, particularly the distorted drum lines. It has a real split personality, sometimes restrained, sometimes explosive. The final track Rabbits opens with a playful, intricate bass line. Again, the cowbell rhythm makes your ears prick up and warping, spiraling synths pervade. The track ensures the EP finishes with a bang.
After multiple listens, I cannot say that Baekma has convinced me that this genre mash-up if for me. What I can say though is that this EP is solid, full of personality and characterised by genius melodic writing and a real organic, fresh sound. I do not understand the meaning behind each track but that’s ok – I’m probably not supposed to. However, what I am sure of is that I’ll be listening to Baskets on a beach somewhere this summer.