Babybird’s ‘Photosynthesis’ makes for an intriguing yet confusing listen, showcasing some of the best and worst aspects of lo-fi, self-produced alternative music. There’s sprawling soundscapes aplenty, but the record does drift into the self-indulgent a little too often.
Stephen Jones is one of the planet’s most prolific musicians under his various aliases, Babybird being the most frequently used. He’s released 13 studio albums, 14 compilations and 5 live albums in the last four years alone, and ‘Photosynthesis’ is his third release this year.
‘Photosynthesis’, predictably for a man who is pretty much constantly making music, is a stream of consciousness; ideas spilling into the recording equipment without a whole lot of structure or theme. That kind of approach tends to chuck out the same result- a couple of diamonds and a lot of rough.
When Jones puts time into lyrics he can come up with some thought-provoking stuff (‘Perfect Suburbian Clone’ is testament to that). However, the songs are pretty ambient for the most part and any lyrics included in the tracks start to form a monotonous drone.
Sometimes the monotony is important to create an effect, like the desperately sombre opener ‘Too Late’, but other times it makes it impossible to concentrate or gets on your nerves- particularly ‘Radioactive Stars’, which is probably great with a bit of chemical assistance but very annoying when sober.
Overall, Babybird’s unbelievable consistency in creating music has made the music itself inconsistent here. The law of averages says that a few of Jones’ many records must be gems, but ‘Photosynthesis’ is too disjointed to be one of them.