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"Regifted Light"

Baby Dee – Regifted Light
07 March 2011, 09:00 Written by Sharon Kean

Baby Dee‘s unconventional brand of instrumental is not what the average music fan might expect of songs entitled ‘Cowboys With Cowboy Hat Hair’ and ‘Coughing Up Cat Hair’. Classically absurd, is perhaps the best place to start with any attempt at ticking genre boxes.

With a track record of transformations – including a sex change and a stint as a fake hermaphrodite on Coney Island – the unpredictability of her sound is not so surprising. Latest release Regifted Light is a piano-led show of emotion, with hymn-like vocals gracing less than half of the album’s twelve tracks

It’s almost ten minutes before you hear a peep out of the performance artist, which creates a dramatically false sense of security. The playful piano arrangement gathers momentum on second track ‘Yapapipi’ and is optimistic and flighty enough to lift even the heaviest of hearts. In fact, at times the hectic pace is enough to raise the heart rate – not least on the 90-seconds of tumbling arpeggios that is the rollercoaster ride of ‘Coughing Up Cat Hair’. It’s difficult to doubt that Dee is drawing on anything less than actual experience with feline fur.

Similarly, ‘The Pie Song’ is two minutes of utter insanity and was clearly written in a delirious fit of hunger. It’s like classical music’s take on an Edward Lear’s nonsense poetry, but without the Edwardian restraint. It wouldn’t look at all out of place in a Jean Pierre Jeunet film, or perhaps as part of a 21st century take on Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

Fans of Antony and The Johnsons will be familiar with Baby Dee’s brand of oddity – in the past she’s arranged the strings and played the harp on her fellow NYC-based performer’s previous albums and beginners could be forgiven for confusing the two artists. It was Antony Hegarty who apparently passed Baby Dee’s tapes to Current 93′s David Tibet who chose to release them on his niche record label, Durto.

With a sound that lies outside the boundaries of rock, pop or even the experimental, anyone listening to Baby Dee for the first time – whether accidentally or on purpose – will need, at the very least, an open mind. Her work is more hymnal than hit and the nearest fit is perhaps with some form of medieval worship. As haunting whispers and plaintive piano keys sit next to soaring bursts of passion and thundering chords, the disjointed rhythms do their best to convince you that Baby Dee is as mad as a bag of snakes.

But don’t let that put you off – Regifted Light is pure performance, half an hour of escapism and a glimpse at a highly original and quite fantastic mind. This is not an accessible album – but a moment alone with Dee’s piano will be enough to send shivers down your spine and spark curiosity about her uncommonly marvellous and unique music.

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