Breaking from the shackles of inconspicuousness, Melbourne-based artist, bAnoffee, is making waves with her newly released self-titled debut EP. The songstress behind bAnoffee is Martha Brown, a producer and singer whose foray into the music scene was initiated while under her previous moniker, Otouto.
In a tight five-song package, Brown’s start-up album traverses the musical landscape by drawing inspiration from a range of different genres. The outcome is a distinctly modern sound that is as inventive as it is easy to digest. While Brown tackles themes about ill-fitting relationships and the importance of finding inner strength, the referential lyrics and the settings of her music videos showcase the true muse behind the music – the city of Melbourne. The album successfully captures the essence of what it is to be young, in and out of relationships, and on a quest to rightfully assert your identity.
It is perhaps from Brown’s background in Alternative folk electronica and her self-confessed love of hip hop and R&B that inspires a sound so tantalisingly unique. Opening song I got it welcomes the listener with the sweetness of her voice, the delicate use of synths and expert layering of beats. One of Brown’s most endearing features is the unpretentious and restrained use of lyrics that really work to compliment the instrumentals. Brown’s repeating of “I don’t think I know you at all,” effectively builds up to the climax of the song, and foreshadows themes she later addresses throughout the album.
In a similar vein, Ohhhh Owww is a deceptively simple track that demonstrates Brown’s expert production techniques. It is textured yet moderated, and I think shows great promise for what the artist can put forth in future albums. Contemporaries of Brown, like FKA twigs and Grimes, similarly demonstrate the skill of utilising their vocals as a prominent instrument. The sound of her vocals mixed with the lyrics themselves add an impressive complexity to each song. The sharpness of lines like, “Fuck everything, fuck it all to hell,” juxtapose the softness of the instrumentals, as Brown employs raindrop-sounding notes to vibrate over the heavier beats. Her plea to “Be honest, be honest” I think reflects the overall philosophy behind her music production. It is glaringly clear that Brown consistently strives for honesty and authenticity – lyrically, visually, and instrumentally.
Constantly seeking the raw and the real, Banoffee succeeds in experimenting with different stylistic modes, and pared back lyrics. This is evident in one of the standout songs of the album, Reign Down. While on the one hand admitting “my heart breaks with every step away”, Brown also asserts that “I will reign down”.
Following nicely from the themes of Reign Down, the beautiful feature track, Ninja, continues to explore challenging relationships. In an interview with Ripe, Brown explains that Ninja is about breaking away from abusive relationships, and not exclusively romantic ones. The music video for this track is equally as exquisite, portraying Brown as paradoxically tough yet vulnerable. As she bandages herself readying for the fight, supple-faced Brown fearlessly sings “I’m a fucking ninja now // I won’t let you bring me down.” It is a song that exudes a sexy self preservation, as she cries, “I know that you like it hot // I’ll butter this bread for you,” at the same time as moaning “I thought I could get you to go away // but my mind is working against me.”
Brown’s R&B and hip hop influences are made apparent from the outset. No stranger to the interplay of genres, the entire album subtly mimics the overlapping of beats inherent in tracks from contemporary R&B artists like Drake or Frank Ocean. Her satiny vocals are reminiscent of female artists like Lykke Li and Santigold, and at times are appropriately enhanced with autotune and synthesizers.
Brown’s minimalist approach works for most of the way through the album, yet at times runs the risk of disengaging the listener, if only momentarily. One thing that may be improved upon is the overall flow of the album. While the layering of instruments in each track is captivating, the album as an entity struggles to find a unified sound. The effect potentially places the listener at a sort of disjuncture, and detracts from the overall listening experience.
Given that this is Brown’s first EP as bAnoffee, however, these subtle criticisms do not in any way shadow over the merits of the album. The potential room for improvement should conversely incentivize the listener to stay up-to-date with this artist’s movements, for it promises even greater things to come. Her sound is fresh and unassuming. Though the name bAnoffee suggests something much more saccharine than hard-hitting, Brown has made it clear there is much more to her musical finesse than meets the eye. If an artist can leave the listener with a pronounced respect for not only her musical prowess, but also for her indicated strength of character, then I think it’s truly an artistic feat.