Alex Dingley : Beat the Babble

Author John Banville wrote a striking sentence in his Dublin-framed book of autobiographical fragments, Time Pieces: "How it haunts the heart, the unfathomable mystery of other people's lives, of other people's misfortune." If art should cast a little light on anything, it is on that mystery, suggesting its depths at least.

Beat the Babble is a great album on any scale, and its writer/performer is clearly working on the edge of art rather than with ephemeral pop. Recorded at a challenging and turbulent time for Dingley (as co-producer Tim Presley has explained in detail) the music, sparsely and immediately recorded, captures a sense of emotional turmoil in its perfectly articulated vignettes and stories.

There are highlights in the ten tracks - the rolling piano and mix of yearning and regret that defines Between the Sheets, the affecting simplicity of If I Asked You to Dance, the melancholy of Lovely Life to Leave - but the overall impression whilst listening from start to finish is of being somewhere else entirely, spirited away from the humdrum into someone else's imagination. The music flows and dances by like an extended hypnagogic dream.

The reason for this is straightforward. The record (it is still available at the time of writing on blue vinyl) lives and breathes in a space bound on one side by the intuition of The Velvet Underground, another by the music The Cure appear to be making in the claustrophobic wardrobe in Tim Pope's film for their classic single Close to Me, and on a third by the liminal magic of an Edwardian fairground at dusk.

This is Beat the Babble's first UK issue - but it is Dingley's third LP and was originally released three years ago in the US. The last time I owned an album as singular and individual as this was Clash cohort Tymon Dogg's Relentless, and I wore the brilliant music out of the grooves of it. Where Relentless was often angry and political, Beat the Babble is intensely personal, but just as essential; this is one of 2018's albums of the year, and of any other year you might care to pick.

ALEX DINGLEY I Not Alone in the Dark