Published Jul 04, 2014Back at the beginning of 2013, Cameron Reed's music career was heading in a new direction. Though he had amassed a handful of stressed-out and scary post-dubstep releases under the name Babe Rainbow, including a pair of high-profile EP releases for Warp Records, he decided he had had enough. Following a move from the West Coast to Toronto, some time spent travelling as part of R&B artist How to Dress Well's backing band and a thirst to move beyond his regular sonic template, he abandoned the Babe Rainbow title in order to produce ambient-styled piano works under his given name.
Life has a funny way of working itself out, though, and here we are a year and a half later with Reed issuing a new full-length LP called Falling Apart — as Babe Rainbow, on the Kinky Beggar imprint. The backtrack towards the nom de plume had been branded by the most jaded of cynics as wishy-washy, and with a tongue somewhat in cheek, Reed has to agree.
"I'll fully acknowledge that it's funny," Reed tells Exclaim! before revving up a hearty, motor-boating chuckle. "With so many electronic artists taking on different monikers for different types of projects, there's no reason that I should've ever just had to get rid of it. It was a little hastily done, but it came out of frustration. I had got annoyed with making electronic music; I felt stifled by it. I didn't feel inspired by it."
While the new album doesn't find him tickling organic ivories, sticking instead to synth soundscapes and electronic drum production, Falling Apart is still drastically different than anything we'd heard from Babe Rainbow before. Gone are the toxic slurry of sub-sonic bass tones and cockroach-skitter beats that marked early works like the Shaved EP, scrubbed out in favour of ethereal ambient arrangements and dream-weaving keyboard melodies.
"I had found myself falling into typical ways of approaching music, typical ways of approaching a new song. I just had to shake myself out of it," Reed explains of drifting away from the post-apocalyptic horror flick textures of his past into somewhere more sublime.
He later adds: "There's so much that you can do with electronic music — so many sub-genres, so many programs, so many sounds, so many effects, so many song structures. You really do have the opportunity to make anything that you can possibly imagine."
Despite its title, opener "Dub Music" is anything but, offering mostly melancholy new age synth swells. Elsewhere, open-ended sine waves and a minimalist ticks propel "Twin Peaks," while "Swept Stairs" features a playful, "Atomic Dog"-style electro-bass wriggle. "Things That Were Not," a highlight that had originally featured Grimes on vocals before being stripped back down to an instrumental, reaches for the stars with faux-harp twinkling and cloud-bound production touches.
"We didn't end up finishing," Reed explains of the scrapped Grimes contributions. "I reworked the instrumental to it and made it a standalone track. There's a lot going on already that it didn't require the vocals, but I recall what she demoed on it being really pretty. It could've been great but I like how it ended up."
On the whole, Falling Apart is light years away from the creeped-out nature of Reed's back catalogue. "That was stuff coming off of a breakup and a long stint of unemployment," the solo artist explains of his first batch of Babe Rainbow songs. "I was 25, 26. Understandably you're going through that whole, 'Am I a fucking adult? Is this what life is?' I finished university, but I'm having to sublet my apartment because I can't afford to keep it and I'm reluctantly crashing at my girlfriend's place. It was a really shitty time and I think the music that I was making during that period reflected that."
Things appear to be pretty solid for Reed at the moment — on top of issuing a new LP, he notes that moving into a new apartment with his sound artist girlfriend and a full-time marketing job with Arts & Crafts are keeping him happy these days. He's fully aware, though, that it was exactly the balance of chaos and order of the last several years that led him to the triumphant masterstroke of his latest collection.
"The title Falling Apart comes from [our] natural state of falling apart and coming back together all the time," Reed notes, further pontificating of the album's central theme. "There is no equilibrium. The moment that you get comfortable with anything, that's the moment where unexpectedly something bad is going to happen. It's not that I'm sitting around thinking the world is terrible and shit's going to fall apart constantly, but that's where that melancholy, in terms of the tone of the new record, comes from."