Bayou’s 'Loopback' is an important mixtape to use as a way to survey the juncture that pop music is at, especially in lieu of John Norris’ recent article about the meaning of "alternative". Nothing is messy or graceless here, even though it almost should be, making for a truly of-the-moment album – exactly what Norris is getting at with his piece.
Bayou told us in a short interview recently that his current inspirations were "brave artists – Missy Elliot, Andre 3000, Nicki Minaj, A.G. Cook, SOPHIE, Kanye, early Neptunes, Arca. People that aren't afraid to find a line to nearly cross". All of that shows. It’s easy to think that you're listening to a new track from Arca when 'Loopback' begins – the nimble Airlock is all festering swivels and sharp turns akin to Arca’s Self Defense, but then Bayou glides the listener into an idyllic, airy chorus, singing “it’s tooooo / far awaaaay.” Speakerstax has moxie and a brassy womp womp bulging in and out of itself like a funhouse mirror until a guitar twang and thwack come in. This is how Bayou works: he "stopped thinking in verses or choruses", pushing repetition and consistency to the side.
The intimations of Arca, and his work with FKA twigs, surface again on Loopback Cotton, which is half chugging and cogging piano, and half flitting and fluttering clip. Varsity Jacket and Cherry Cola, with Americana-harkening lyrics about "drinking cherry cola", and the image of a varsity jacket being stereotypically emblematic of popular kids in America, would be ideal fits for the new, Dev Hynes-scored Palo Alto soundtrack, and Bayou easily sidles in with contemporaries like Blood Orange and Kindness with his tender touch.
The mixtape is really what Bayou said it was: "I realised there's more power in the sweet or easy moment happening just briefly, and next to some ugly, glossy stuff", a sentiment which actually echoes what was said in the SOPHIE and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu chat for Dazed Digital a few weeks ago. Every song has this dichotomy he mentions, with a sense of constant submerging then re-emerging from water occurring, a guitar strum (like the head-banging one in Drones) or piano part bringing the listener back to the surface.
Considering all this, it’s quite impressive how cohesive everything is. The mastery of it is found in the suaveness and panache of the transitions within each song, at once zoned in and zoned out. Bayou knows his stuff. With 'Loopback', he’s on his way to becoming one of those brave artists.
Double Denim released 'Loopback' on May 12th 2014 (download).