“Now! (in a minute)” is a curiously Welsh phrase, a witty contradiction hailing from the Valleys, similar to “Whose coat is that jacket?” Its also the name of the refreshing debut album from audiobooks. Evangeline Ling, a 21-year-old art student and musician from Wimbledon, and North Walian super-producer David Wrench might seem an unlikely pairing. But a chance encounter at a mutual friend’s party just one week after David had moved south to the capital very quickly led to an experimental studio session that’s been going on ever since.
Now (In A Minute) is a bricolage of pop sounds that soundtrack the monologues of Londoner Ling at points euphoric, odd, unsettling, and funny; it’s the sound of life viewed from the side of one eye, the internal voice from the middle of parties from flights of fancy, from vague memories to the thoughts you have just before you drift off to sleep.
Musically it’s all over the map, a kaleidoscope of sounds that spins with each song, reflecting the fact that they ‘get bored easily‘ Wrench constantly trying to capture Ling’s enthusiasm and imagination and cram it into a bottle. With each song, the pop professor Wrench runs the gamut of production, blurring genre lines of the entirety of musical history and setting it at an angle to pitch the music to the mood. These outpourings dip into fragments of poetry and streams of subconsciousness, at times it’s like listening to Radio 4 and Radio 1 at the same time whilst tripping on a strange brand of LSD.
Now! (in a minute) confounds at every step. Opener ‘Mother Hen’ might be a postmodern nursery rhyme set to bubbling electronics; audiobooks say they: “wrote and recorded this on the 2nd day we hung out. Evangeline was so excited to do more work that she travelled across London in her Batman pyjamas so as not to waste any time.”. While the fantastically playful electro-pop of standout ‘Hot Salt’ nods at The Human League but produces one of the singles of the year with its double hander when Wrench joins in.
The autotune experiments of ‘It Get Be So Swansea‘ are simultaneously disorientating and delightful. “It’s not a big deal I don’t want to be with you/I don’t want to sleep with you/I am not here to be sexy/It’s not a big deal have a bubble bath with me‘ sings Ling on the ace ‘Friends in the Bubble Bath’ which is flirtatious and a kiss off all at once, with its strident synths and a stompy beat, like ‘Don’t You Want Me‘ rebranded for couples that want to take platonic baths together; Wrench lending his ominous synths and vocals in the middle eight gives it a pleasing change up too. The dubby basslines of ‘Grandma Jimmy‘ are counterbalanced by Ling’s posh nanny narrative with its darkly comic tone, like a character from Withnail and I. ‘Fuck I wanna get back to London’, Jimmy snapped back ‘you may leave after I have photographed you!’
The riotous ‘Dance Your Life Away’ is a surreal tale succinctly explained by the pair thus; “It’s the soundtrack to a party on the verge of chaos in a hip LA hotel. A party you wish you were invited to, but you go anyway, disguised as a cleaner. You leave minus all your body hair.” Capturing the contents of a shaken cocktail glass, this frenzied melange of percussion sewn with dancing synths, welds the post-funk playfulness of Talking Heads with breathless vocal explosions redolent of Bjork‘s most frenetic moments, Ling screaming out random keywords like a crazed dance instructor ‘This hotel has a buzz! I’m gonna to go MATRIX MAD, I’M GOING MATRIX MAD! We’re gonna go get our legs waxed tonight, our armpits waxed, and our vaginas waxed, let’s do it now!’, it’s impossible not to move your body with a smile on your face to this!
Siouxie and the Banshees are brought to mind on the swelling ‘Womanly Blood’ with a reassuringly brooding vocal that simmers before Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa (the only other contributor to the record) bassline takes over; ‘Call of Duty Free‘ is an English sounding monologue about a middle-class family jetting off on holiday, set to sinewy 70s Kraftwerk-style tumbling synths. By contrast, the minimal throbs and almost wispish r&b skitter of ‘Period Talk‘ fade off into the distance. The industrial beats of ‘Dealing with Hoarders‘ are laced with crushing cyberpunk sounds and Ling’s frantic breathless delivery. Closer ‘Pebbles‘ returns to the darkly cinematic ominous John Carpenter synths and impassioned yet ghostly vocals redolent of Bjork’s Homogenic or their debut EP, haunting and human, it’s reassuringly familiar after a patchwork of busy sounds and off the wall couplets (“when I chase I really really do chase, I don’t give up“).
It doesnt all work but Now (In A Minute) is a thrill ride of diverse shapeshifting pop sounds for the senses, crafted by Wrench and infused with internal monologues all brought to vivid life by the infectious talent of Ling. Unsettling, playful and anxious, it touches on every emotion in the spectrum. It’s quite frankly bonkers at times, always playful and dolloped with stories from the outer reaches, not to mention possessed of an audacious imagination sadly lacking from the charts right now, in just one record! Strap yourself in for the ride!
Now (In A Minute!) is out now on Heavenly.