Babe - Volery Flighty (3 stars)

Babe - Volery Flighty

Former Findo Gask man Gerard Black proves he's just as talented as his famous friends

(Moshi Moshi)

Talented pals – who needs them? Fife-born Gerard Black’s Glasgow/Bordeaux-based brainchild Babe (also featuring Amaury Ranger, Thomas Ogden and Michael Marshall, a bandmate of Gerard’s in defunct Scottish synth-pop group Findo Gask) have been progressing towards a debut album for several years now, in which time his stock has risen and yet also been slightly obscured by association with other successful artists.

François Marry’s gallic-pop wonders Frànçois and the Atlas Mountains, whom Black and Ranger are both also members of, have signed to Domino and grown steadily in stature, while sometimes Babe co-conspirator Lauren Mayberry’s Chvrches have exploded internationally. Not exactly helping matters in giving Volery Flighty a strong start in life is the rather self-defeating scheduling of its release – just a week after Francois’ new album Piano Ombre, which not only means that it’s overshadowed by a better-resourced record promo-wise, but also that they can’t properly tour the album, with Atlas Mountains duties taking precedence.

But, much as circumstances may try and force Volery Flighty into the background, this is an album that refuses to pass by unnoticed. While maybe not the most consistent slice of globe-tripping, Francophile electro-pop you’ll hear all year, it yields several glorious moments, lead single ‘Aerialist Barbette’ being the most obvious: Black’s fallen-angel falsetto weaves between liquid guitar lines and Mayberry’s plaintive backing vocals, which – as they do throughout the record, most alluringly on the woozy ‘Oft’ – float in and out of the sonic spectrum with an almost dreamlike essence. ‘Trip Wire’ could be Euros Childs collided with Sebastian Tellier. ‘Tilt’, with its taut funk bass line and luminous chorus, gets douze points just for squeezing in the word “brouhaha”.

Volery Flighty surely merits a re-heat further down the line under more favourable release conditions, and proves that among the tight knot of gifted songwriters and musicians with which Black has become intertwined, as an individual player and songwriter he’s no loose link.