A near seven-minute instrumental is a brave gambit to open an album with, especially on a debut. This sort of confidence is exuded throughout Primitives, the new LP from self-taught American musician Roger Sellers, also known as Bayonne.
From an early age, Sellers shared an all too common feeling that studying music theory at college sapped the fun out of his main interest. As many musicians disenchanted with traditional study do, Sellers set out on his own path. He began adding loop effects to his amassed collection of melodies and percussive elements – influenced by the sounds of his childhood hero Phil Collins (I know, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt).
‘Intro’ is not only an impressive gateway into Primitives, it’s also an introduction to the textures and stylistic choices that Bayonne returns to throughout. If you were to distil the essence of Sellers’ sound into one track – this would be it. The sound of moving water is displaced by a flickering guitar loop, with new loops constantly faded in. A background choral sound not dissimilar to 10cc’s classic ‘I’m Not in Love’ works its way through the rest of the track, as do more looped falsettos and heavy, almost tribal percussion. This carries the momentum of the instrumental into a crescendo where a familiar combination of bells and chimes begin.
After hearing the opening of ‘Appeals’, I was struck with an unusual sense of déjà vu. Where had I heard this track before? After a day or two of scouting my subconscious, and scouring every TV channel and radio station, I realised as always the solution to my problem was FIFA 17, often an underrated method of discovering music. Removing football from the equation, this is an instantly memorable track, largely indebted to the piano, synth, and chime loops that its vocal hooks are built upon.
Once again in tracks such as ‘Spectrolite’ and ‘Living Room’, Bayonne has managed to strip every instrument back to its most basic function, and then built layer upon layer of simplistic textures to create a far more complex finished product. However complicated the sound is, the approach can sometimes feel slightly formulaic. Bayonne wants you to know what each layer sounds like before it’s added in, something which is probably a mighty spectacle in a live setting, but on the record it can sometimes become testing. It is for that reason that later tracks ‘Lates’ and ‘Omar’ struggle to stand out from the rest.
I have no doubt that these are designed to be appreciated for their ‘weight’, as Sellers explains, “I want the music to carry people in some way, and I want them to feel what I’m feeling. I want my music to be an emotive expression.” Bayonne certainly runs with these expressions, but sometimes the concepts feel slightly exhausted. ‘Primitives’ certainly deserves repeated listens, and should by no means be disregarded – it’s an incredibly brave and astute debut. It just feels as if Bayonne’s appeals are somewhat limited in this outing. 3/5