Baby Ford, Gravy Train


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Baby Ford once said, “Voices on tracks have always been part of the sound, but that’s all it is, part of a whole sound.” “Gravy Train” and Soul Capsule’s “Waiting 4 A Way,” a track Baby Ford co-produced with Thomas Melchior in 2007, help us to understand this relationship of parts to wholes when it comes to vocals and instrumentation. There are similarities between the voices on “Gravy Train” and “Waiting 4 A Way,” both in execution and concept. Linguistically, they share a sexual “come on” croon, they’re worked with effects in equal measure, and both have been released as a cappellas. This last commonality suggests a logic where the voices are no longer just parts of a whole sound, but have become a whole sound in and of themselves.

There’s a transparency to the a cappella in dance music. By themselves, they stand starkly naked, existing under the microscope for their potential to be remixed. Not only are their durability and mutability assessed for instances of appropriation, but their fitness to the original works considered. You wonder if the track lived up to the a cappela’s potential; you make a comparison between extant and ideal circumstances. As parsed details, a cappelas function as invitations to deconstruct the multi-tracks into their components and understand how the gears make the clocks tick. At first I thought “Gravy Train” sounded too similar to “Waiting 4 A Way,” but that was missing the point. In realizing the voices are being held constant, it became easier to note the records’ differences: the percussion of “Waiting 4 A Way” having more to do with Melchior’s style than Baby Fords’, the bounce of Baby Ford’s organs in “Gravy Train” — a signature of his since “Noddy” on BFORD 9. The parts and their microscopic details are built up into a dense sound that defines these records and the maxim that a sum can be greater than its parts.

“Waiting 4 A Way” is a crown jewel for both Soul Capsule and Perlon, and as much as “Gravy Train” catches its vibe it’s just not as revelatory. Fortunately, there’s some sense of urgency from Baby Ford to break new ground on the B-side, “No Day.” The track’s got several things going for it: Larry Heard-like keys for one, but perhaps the main thing is it’s quite nearly a song — that is, there’s an implicit musical relationship to the oratory. But there isn’t a voice on “No Day,” only the micro sounds that suggest a cappela. The “scat” on “No Day” sounds rooted in the twee of Aspect Music. It’s mildly cheesy, but you get a sense Baby Ford clearly had some fun with this one, and that there’s a story being told here. I started off this review with a quote from Baby Ford, and I’ll close with a quote by Thomas Melchior/Baby Ford, which is actually a remix of a famous “a cappella” by T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploring and when we come to an end of all exploring we shall return to where we started and know the place for the first time.” For Baby Ford, his most recent 12″ seems like a transition point, both a return to BFORD 9 and Aspect Music, and a progression of a sound nascent in Basking in The Breaklights and culminating in “Waiting 4 A Way.” However, “No Day” is also a point of departure from this progression, and if the quote holds true, hopefully Baby Ford will one day return to “Waiting 4 A Way” where something new and revelatory happened.

hutlock  on May 21, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Totally agree about “Gravy Train” — amazing track. “No Day” is pretty much wretched though. I don’t think I’ll even play it again. I consider it to be a failed experiment.

jake  on May 21, 2009 at 3:39 PM

nice writeup momo! i like the thoughts on a cappellas :)

Mike  on May 21, 2009 at 8:29 PM

Quality minimalism from a guy who effectively invented it in its purist form. “Gravy Train” is the winner!

hutlock  on May 22, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Not to start a debate with Mike, but… have you never heard of Robert Hood? :-)

Mike  on May 22, 2009 at 9:52 PM

Sure I have heard of Rob Hood, funny joke, haha. Do some homework next time you want to throw out a comment like that, wiht a little research on a label called Rhythm King 1988-1992 you’ll find this touches on some true minimal moments and all of this was by none other than Baby Ford, 6 years before Rob Hood’s “Minimal Nation” in 1994, originally on Axis records with 2 unheard tracks which haven’t come out until this new re-release in June. Of course Rob’s sound is his own as much as Baby Ford’s was but they are both pioneers of the style in their own right.

Mike  on May 22, 2009 at 9:52 PM

Nothing but respect Todd, but you of all people should know this already.

Mike  on May 22, 2009 at 9:56 PM


Mike  on May 22, 2009 at 9:59 PM

of course baby ford’s take on minimal was a bit more acidic but it still was stripped down to the core ingredients. :-)

Mike  on May 22, 2009 at 10:48 PM

I also would like to add I enjoyed reading your review of Jeff Mills “The Good Robot” I went out and bought it and that was the first Mills purchase in years, thanks for the tip.

hutlock  on May 27, 2009 at 8:58 AM

Sorry for the delayed response, Mike — I’ve been out of town for a bit.

Anyway, yeah, I’m intimately familiar with Baby Ford’s Rhythm King output. I guess I don’t consider that stuff to be “minimal” in the sense that, as you said, it was more acidic, more melodic, etc. I don’t hear a clear path from that point A to today’s (or more precisely, 2006’s) point B of minimal techno.

But hey, whatever.

Also, I don’t really need to do homework here, sonny. I was alive and kicking and playing in clubs during the era you’re talking about. Disagree with me all you like (you make a good point), but you can’t take my age away from me, as much as I might like you to! :-)

hutlock  on May 27, 2009 at 8:58 AM

Also, glad you got the Mills and liked it!

Mike  on May 28, 2009 at 12:42 AM

Point made Todd and I hear you loud and clear, I also would like to go back a few years myself! :-) I have also seen and more importantly heard a few things in my time. I see your point on the current state of minimal and more importantly the record in discussion but one could also argue Rob Hood’s “Minimal Nation” isn’t what is happening now in minimal music either but we’ll save that discussion for another time. Until then, I will keep looking and reading your reviews on current music.

Dunford  on May 31, 2009 at 8:00 PM

I don’t exactly know what it is, but the high pitched squealing sound that starts at 9 seconds gave me a headache. It made my roommate’s cat flip out at my computer, though (hilarious).

Faik  on June 23, 2009 at 10:33 AM

No day is such a beautiful song it´s number one on my playlist ( true masterpiece)

Andrew L  on June 28, 2009 at 1:06 PM

“No Day” is a great track and LOL @ the music nerd fight in this comment section.


Little White Earbuds May Charts - Little White Earbuds  on June 4, 2009 at 10:16 PM

[…] [Innervisions] (buy) 07. DJ Koze, “Mrs. Bojangels” [Circus Company] (buy) 08. Baby Ford, “No Day” [Perlon] (buy) 09. Jason Fine, “Half” (Anton Zap remix) [Kontra-Musik] (buy) 10. Peter […]

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