Darcy Baylis is the emo-rap star Australia needs on ‘The Taste of Cherry’
DARCY BAYLIS’ 2017 debut album, the Australian Music Prize nominated Intimacy & Isolation, drew on a number of seemingly disparate influences to create its experimental, style- and genre-agnostic soundscape: futuristic R&B, vintage techno and house, UK Garage and hardcore, ambient electronica. It was all held together by Baylis’ implacable and meticulous sense of taste, with tracks that could start as a PHILIP GLASS inspired minimalist composition and end with a beat that sounds like it was taken from The Life of Pablo. Somewhere in there was an affection for the kind of emo hip hop being pioneered by the likes of LIL UZI VERT or LIL PEEP, a stylistic thread which Baylis pulls on further with his latest single, ‘The Taste of Cherry’.
Baylis provides some context to his change in direction, saying of the release, “The Taste of Cherry came out of a messy breakup that preceded a nervous breakdown which caused me to delete about 6 months worth of music. At the suggestion of my best friend, I stopped thinking about music for a while and followed her overseas while we both pretended our regular lives didn’t exist for a while. The melody came to my head while swimming in the ocean. I started writing the album the day I got home.”
Baylis’ stylistic shift makes sense in this context. Adopting the form of emo-rap gives him the perfect contemporary platform to chronicle his heartache in microscopic, candid detail: “But you could’ve just called me / Instead of ignore me / I’ve been counting the days now / Until you say sorry.” That’s not to say that Baylis’ adoption of emo hip hop dilutes his stylistic adventurousness, however. On the contrary, starting from abstract, mournful dual piano melodies and hollow string adornments, which are then filled out with rumbling subs and escalating percussive elements, the track bursts into a booming hip-hop beat during the chorus, with Baylis’ spacious vocal melodies expressively falling in and out of auto-tune.
Australian hip-hop has, in the past, languished behind international scenes as the lesser-known cousin, seemingly existing within its own space and time. But it’s learning to be more diverse, more experimental, and more exciting as a result. We’ve seen many artists who are helping contribute to this wave, but the work Darcy Baylis is doing on ‘The Taste of Cherry’ represents a side to this wave that we’ve yet to see. That’s what makes tracks like ‘The Taste of Cherry’ – tracks which exist within an international artistic context and feel completely of-the-moment – so thrilling to encounter. If Baylis’ work has thus far established anything it’s that he’s seemingly averse to the idea of style and the limitations having a definite style places on your artistry. But, let’s hope he settles for a moment on the styles found here, because if ‘The Taste of Cherry’ is indicative of the other material contained on his as-of-yet unannounced sophomore LP then it’s clear that he has something very valuable to contribute to this wave.