Babel is a large-scale musical structure celebrating the multiplicity of musical language and evolving technologies as the 20th century came to a close.
Originally released as a 5-CD set in 1999, the first 3 CDs contained 'rooms' within an imaginary Tower oF Babel (a kind of aural virtual reality) and the other 2 CDs contained KBBL - the Tower's fictitious radio station.
Each of KBBL's 4 shows has its own style and atmosphere. Collaborating with DJs, writers, actors and singers, KBBL is made to sound like a real radio station with ads, traffic reports, phone-ins etc.
THE LEISURE PURSUITS SHOW: (part 1) Alle Rouste; The Proposal; No More Mr. Nice Guy; (part 2) Movie Theme Music; Sir Geoffrey; Senanbru Vendanswi.
DJ written and performed by Myra Davies; extra text and voices: Tim Brady (Heaven's Gate ad), Olwen Fouéré (Tx Ffemme); Eleonora Lark is Anne Lapierre with saxophone solo from Ned Bennett and percussion from Michel F. Coté; Bob Gallico (Amos), Yvon McDevitt and Triona Ryan (movie extract, with additional material from Neil and Mary Connolly, Jackie Magee); text for What Does It Mean To Speak Without A Body by Ingrid Bachmann, spoken by Olwen Fouéré; Sir Geoffrey sung by Roger Doyle with text by Tom Mathews; programming on Senanbru Vendanswi by Dirk Haubrich.
THE NIGHTSHOW: (part 1) The Garden Room; Some Flooded Plain; The Blue Line To Wonderland; (part 2) Satanasa; Part Of My Make-up; Farewell to Bray; Sleep.
Ish K. Babble written and performed by David Olds; lyrics and vocals on: The Garden Room: Elena López; and on Part Of My Make-up: Olwen Fouéré; extra text and voice: Tim Brady (acrostic Soma ad); Jonathan Philbin Bowman (phone-in), Cindy Cummings (Soma ad 2), Mary Doyle (Sleep).
'...The final two discs are of the imagined radio station broadcasting from floor 25 of the Tower of Babel. The first, “Earth at Full Moon”. It opens with “The Morning Show” and an announcer giving the weather report (“Always a nice day, here in the Tower”) and moves on to far more human concerns than we have heard so far, all pinned together by Doyle's brilliance with electronics. Singer Elena Lopez seems to imply that the vocal lines of her song “You must be in” are derived from the music of Puccini. The news report is impeccably humorous (we get traffic and hilarious ads with out-takes, too, plus a rather restrained jingle that informs us that they are broadcasting “in a language of your choice”). World music up next, with “Surface du Monde”, a collage of musics from around the planet. Some of the music could almost come under the “easy listening” classification. The 16-minute “Trapeze in Full-Moon Nights (four acts from an imaginary circus)” is magnificently evocative. Waltzes appear, distorted in an aural mirror; think of the fairground from the popular TV series “Heroes” and that should give some idea. It is all great fun.
Finally, “Leisure Pursuits”, split into two “shows”. First up, “The Entertainment and Leisure Pursuits Show””, complete with adverts. This is the slow side of radio, with a twist. The implication, from the phone-in on the second show, “The Nightshow” (“we're going to transfigure the night”, says the announcer), is that the show is piped into everyone's home whether they want it or not, and can't be turned off. The adverts for a sleeping pill (from “Soma Pharmaceuticals”) imply that is the only escape.
Heard on their own, the last two discs might be shrugged off as clever, but so what?. Heard in the context of the preceding three discs of Babel, they take on a whole new level of meaning as part of a story, part of an impeccably imagined alternative world exoerience. Fascinating, and well worth the time required to properly immerse oneself in the weird and wonderful contents of Roger Doyle's head'.
Colin Clarke. Fanfare Magazine (USA) January 2014.