Devising onomatopoeia for the incessant assault of tribal drumming and tweaky synths on Waterbabies’ self-released debut (lots of “brrms” and “tky-tky-chks”) seems inseparable from describing the album. What else is there to say about it?
Well, how about this: The Chicago musicians that devise the noise-drum foursome Waterbabies are involved in many other Windy City art-rock bands, most notably Mahjongg and Bobby Conn, all of which are slightly more attuned to rhythm than your average indie-rock band is. Unfortunately, instead of a more tempered exploration of rhythm, Waterbabies music sounds like a dumping ground for the members’ obsession with noisy drums, and, well, just that — a bunch of overmiked drums and rhythmic synth blips for fifty minutes.
You know how doing mushrooms and being in a drum circle is a lot more fun than actually having to listen to a bunch of hippies beating congas? That’s how the record comes off. Waterbabies’ refusal to work any dynamic into the skin-slamming on the disc makes the listen wear on anyone not under the influence of a spinal-fluid-draining substance. The music seems to make sense within the context of a certain coterie of art-fucked, willfully obtuse Chicago hipsters, but outsiders will likely find the record tedious.
That being said, taken individually the songs can be occasionally thrilling to listen to. In some brief moments they can sound like an analog Art of Noise minus the brains or a Konono No. 1 minus the heart. Anyone really interested should try to catch one of Waterbabies’ unpredictable live shows.