When Maya Bon and Ryan Albert met with their future label Double Double Whammy for the first time, they brought a collection of plump, homegrown tomatoes for the occasion. That pastoral touch mirrors what the duo accomplish in their music as Babehoven. As practitioners of homespun indie rock, there’s a picturesque quality to their work that renders each listen multi-sensory. The Babehoven sound has a cooling texture, a verdant visual, an organic taste. But over six EPs in four years, the duo presented diverse approaches to cultivating those sensations, including soft, frank rock on Demonstrating Visible Differences in Height, haunting tape manipulation on Yellow Has a Pretty Good Reputation and molasses-slow folk on Sunk. The duo combine each of these styles and more on Light Moving Time, their long-anticipated debut LP.
On Light Moving Time, Babehoven are not in a rush. Relaxed tempos are central to their discography. Babehoven are Duster superfans and their shared preference for DIY recording gives the music its contemplative, hand-hewn texture. Their music rests at the intersection of the observant lyricism of Roy Orbison and the rhythmic creativity of Dear Nora. The resultant artifact is as crisp and pensive as the undulating Appalachian foothills. At times directly referential and at others connotative, Babehoven’s emphasis on cycles of grief and support highlights incredible care for mutuality, for understanding our place in the world through relating with our contexts. Light Moving Time presents sonic and analytic diversity needed to illuminate the inflection points of our cyclical emotional lives. Whether they come across as muddy and bedroom-y (“Philadelphia,” “Circles”) or warm and folksy (“Marion,” “Break the Ice”), Babehoven never wander far away from their fuzzy, rustic backbone, imbuing the record with approachability.
While Babehoven’s previous projects have repeatedly used humor to decompress the emotional gravitas of their songs, Light Moving Time offers moments of naked sincerity that are unforgettable in style and message. Lead single “I’m On Your Team” is sparse, even by Babehoven standards, allowing Bon’s lyrics to stand out with crystalline clarity as she sings plainly, yet whimsically about sustainable emotional bonds. Less celebratory, “Stand It” presents an incandescent relationship reaching its sundown: “You’re looking like a silver dollar and you’re tall / I’m wondering if after all these years, do I know you at all?”
Light Moving Time’s most poignant experiences arrive in the record’s final two tracks. “June Phoenix” lays bare Bon’s struggle to stay tethered to reality under the weight of grief, accentuated by lush, measured reflections and dynamic fluctuations that present the song as a journey itself. Album closer “Often” portrays all-encapsulating travails of holding familial trauma like a ride in the car’s back seat, driving to God-knows-where with little meaningful control. Perhaps the barest track on the record, “Often” is stark, but warmly affirming as Bon’s gentle, understanding vocals visualize and validate the often-unnameable experience of navigating life feeling so alien from kin.
Light Moving Time is an informal, yet challenging listen, with emotional heft, rhythmic complexity and highly textured instrumentals providing thorny contrasts to thoughtful, feel-good twang. It is hard not to yearn for another track as anthemic as “I’m On Your Team,” however, since so many songs offer comparatively subtle hooks. But the completed project is a rich portrait, entreating questions and offering validation without succumbing to trite bromides. Light Moving Time is an iridescent collection displaying Babehoven’s accumulating sonic and thematic expeditions, and proving their inherent connection while reflecting on connection itself.
Devon Chodzin is a critic and urban planner with bylines at Slumber Mag, Merry-Go-Round and Post-Trash. He is currently a student in Philadelphia. He lives on Twitter @bigugly