Put together from scraps of cassette tapes and sound collages, you’d expect Daryl Waller’s debut to be one for the avant-garde. The 37-year-old decamped from Cornwall to Hackney to put the finishing touches to The Baby Blues, and in the process the eleven tracks took on their own lives. By producing the record he confesses his sound became “more song-like” and there’s no doubt the arrangements now take centre stage.
Spoken word still intermittently features in the haunting folk cuts, carried along with Waller’s hushed vocals. Employing double tracking in places, he evokes Elliott Smith, if only he’d swapped Portland, Oregon, for a damp woodland.
Themes of forestry recall places far away from the city, coming as no surprise that the album was partly made inside a wooden hut and despite being billed as lo-fi, the crystal clear production brings moments of beauty as string parts slowly burn over picked guitar lines.
Beginning life with stitched-up lines from film, ‘Gene Wilder’ develops into a hypnotic waves of psychedelic vocals crashing in between poetic lines before ending with a spoken word coda set over bird song.
Waller isn’t keen on spending too long on an idea, and opener ‘Take Me Anywhere’ proves that it’s of no artistic detriment. As he exhales his vocal delivery, it’s easy to become lost in the hypnotic orchestrations that throw the poetry into the background.
At just over two minutes long, ‘Shoad’ achieves much more than its length suggests. Starting life with a cascade of finger-picked notes, the later addition of dissonant stabs of strings, evoking the sound of sawing wood, serve to reinforce the rural themes of the record.
It quickly becomes clear that The Baby Blues is the result of a collection of abstract aural sketches developed into a gorgeously fully-formed record.