‘What’s a Baio?’ were my immediate thoughts when I stumbled across this EP. Well it turns out a Baio isn’t an anything actually; it is in fact the name under which Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio has begun releasing solo material, Sunburn EP being his debut offering. The Vampire Weekend brand name instantly draws to mind jangly guitars, shouty vocals and Afro-tinged drums, but here Baio wrong foots any expectations of him to make something unfamiliar and moves into the field of electronic music.
Opening the three-track EP is ‘Sunburn Modern’, an upbeat piano chord driven affair that, as I write on a sunny day, seems the perfect track to the summer. Like a lot of electronic music being produced at the moment, the influence of Jamie XX can be heard throughout, with the distorted vocal screams and steel drums being reminiscent of his single ‘Far Nearer’. However, such comparisons are not a problem as the songs flies by blissfully with a charm that only the most heartless could be cynical towards.
Next up is the ambiguously and awkwardly titled Anonymity 1 which I can only assume is an attempt to show people that he is a serious artist like Radiohead on Kid A. Once again, my initial cynicism was shown up as the track follows in its predecessor’s footsteps, providing a positive and complicated sound, even complete with handclaps! A slight influence from another acclaimed dance producer Caribou can be heard, with the songs mournful synths accompanying the fast shuffling drums and jerky keyboard in the background echoing aforementioned’s 2010 album Swim, in particular the track ‘Lalibela’.
With third track ‘Tanto’, there comes a change of pace. The songs maintains the positive nature of the EP this far but removes the focus on drumbeats and replaces it with Baio’s expertise in bass. The song is the clear highlight of the EP, displaying originality and complexity without alienating the listener by echoing the EP’s title, blending the warm feel of the sun whilst blending in the burn with frequent hints towards melancholia.
While only three tracks long, Sunburn EP shows Baio’s potential. As a bassist, he is often overshone by the trademark characteristics of his main band Vampire Weekend, but here he comes into his own. Baio uses his musical expertise as a bassist to explore the genre of electronic music with as much innovation as Vampire Weekend did towards indie-rock when they boldy based a song around the lyrical refrain of “Blakes got a new face!”. The EP suggests that with the release of a full album, Baio’s clear talent will be revealed in a more extensive manner.