Review

Richard di Santo, Incursion Music Review, no. 014, October 22, 2000

This monumental musical project is the result of more than 10 years of compositions and recording material by electronics composer Roger Doyle.

The music moves from frantic cut-ups and collages to more quiet and slower-moving ambient-style and improvisational music, reflecting the themes of each disc respectively (Temple Music, Chambers and Spirit Levels and Delusional Architecture). Babel; KBBL should indeed be praised for its breadth and for its ambition. Its execution is obviously the product of rigorous and disciplined recording and mixing sessions, and here also it is clear that Babel; KBBL is an incredible accomplishment.

My sense is that it tries to be too much at once, tries to be everything to everyone, understandable and yet incomprehensible at the same time.

The very flaw of the biblical Babel; it’s too ambitious. The music is a frantic blend of harsh cut-ups and floods of sound, with a highly “synthesised,” or artificial feel to it, and I must admit I feel slightly claustrophobic while listening.

Perhaps more successful, if only because it’s more amusing than it is ambitious, is the “supplement” to Babel called KBBL. Comprising two out of the five discs, KBBL is the fictional radio station of Babel, hosted by William Monigold (the morning show) and Myra Davies (the evening show). Some clever witticisms make the experience of these discs more entertaining, including an hilarious high-speed commercial break (incomprehensible, but to be listened back at normal speed “at your convenience”). Here, as in the previous three discs, Doyle presents a diverse collection of musical styles and structures, except that this time we have the more “popular music” of Babel. By far the more interesting of the two “radio personalities” is Myra Davies on the second disc, for her narration is less the terminally upbeat American radio-host, presenting a much more relaxed and better paced narration (the fifth is for me the best disc from the five). Some nice grooves and interesting songs on both discs (contributions from Barbara Gogan and Anne Lapierre are among the most notable here).

Roger Doyle’s Babel; KBBL (like the biblical tower on which it is based) is ambitious, diverse and highly artificial — three qualities which simultaneously describe its achievements as well as its shortcomings.

… an incredible accomplishment.

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