Baio (Chris Baio) might have earned fair respect from being the bassist in the band Vampire Weekend but his solo works are an absolute dream of hyperactive sound. The Names is his debut album and it’s certainly not a spin-off of the bands work: it’s a unique experimentation of sound with plenty of infectious rhythms.
Album openers The Names is an assault to your senses, while Brainwash yyrr Face is full of a thumping beat with various layers of intricate and weird sound. Some noises sound almost tortured, as bites of vocals have been manipulated to the point that many of them sound more robotic than human. Having this track as the opening song of the album is a perfect choice: so many of the various sound elements that feature in this one make appearances on other tracks, making it all very cohesive. Following from Brainwash yyrr Face is title track The Names, which is an outright knockout. Baio incorporates plenty of electronic beats but also features a good amount of vocals distorted by echo, which adds a really distinct voice to the song.
Throughout The Names it’s easy to see that Baio is using his creative license to try and create something completely new to keep the listener engaged. An interesting take on this is I Was Born In A Marathon; it feels like two songs molded together. The first half of the track is high energy, dance elements set behind a pounding bass beat and then it just stops. You’re left in dead air until the sound comes back at a much slower pace and subtler beat while Baio comes in with delicate vocals exploring a theme of belonging and identity, “But even if its not my fault, I can’t quite shake the small dark thought that I, make this a worse place” / “I was born in a marathon, now I’m lost at sea”. It’s intriguing and deep lyrics like this I just wish were a bit more prominent: sometimes they just get lost at sea in the waves of electronica.
Overall Baio has delivered a delightfully fresh enigma of sound for The Names: his experimentation with electronica certainly works. His voice has really been explored and discovered (and reworked) by crafting a quirky record that’s almost mix between DJ and indie art. It’s not going to have you raving, but you’ll be for sure bopping along to the crisp beats that Baio’s spinning.