Bae Tigre is a new addition to the Minneapolis based artist collective Polkadot Mayhem. The collective is a group of musicians comprised of the hip-hop artist Botzy, Wesley Opus, The Once-ler and the band Jellyfish Brigade. Bae Tigre’s sound is a departure for the very prolific collective and showcases quite a different genre. Ranelle Johnson is the creator of Bae Tigre and with nearly a decade of band experience (Tiger VS) for the first time has gone solo. She is also Polkadot Mayhem’s first solo female artist. Ranelle started the project with recording and producing the album in her basement then bringing it to Wesley Opus who mixed it. She handles the vocals and keys live and performs with the unusual line up of live drums, electric cello, and viola. The album is the happy marriage of the electronic and symphonic.
‘Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical’ is aptly titled. It is an atmospheric album, thick with an Alice in Wonderland aura. The songs as a whole evoke an air of mysticism, hallucinogenic wanderings with personal lyrics. Ranelle cited St. Vincent as an influence and it shows, but as she herself said “It’s fun to make your own lane.” Ranelle’s delivery is wandering, poignant and reaches out toward you like a hand pulling you down the rabbit hole. She is excited to be part of the PDM collective and only recently began to listen to hip hop, admittedly not foreseeing her future collaboration with hip hop artists. The outcome of the venture is a welcome breath of fresh air in a genre that has not been heavily represented locally. “So I’ll sing louder, and build us a ladder” she intones on ‘Now or Never’-indeed she has built a ladder to a new sound for Polkadot Mayhem. It makes total sense that Botzy contributed on the album because he has produced some very diverse music that bleeds into the electronic sampler genre.
“Now or Never’ is a eerie opener with an uneasy crescendo that builds into a mantra-like chorus of “take, take what I wanna.” Yes, Ranelle took it and ran with it as the release entreats the listener into a wholly different reality. The perfect tonic to escape to and forget the world. There are some intimate and amusing exchanges of dialogue between Ranelle and Botzy ( in particular ‘Love Drifter’) that beg the question of what exactly was happening during the recording? ‘Chemicals’ is a very plugged in song-electronically, alive with murky vocals reminiscent of Kate Bush. The allusion of a feminist Alice in Wonderland is created in the track ‘Happy’ as Ranelle rails against the standard that she has been held to in order to achieve traditional “success.” A hypnotic and danceable song even as she repeats “I am going to get a job and be happy.”
Such a wonderland of a journey! ‘Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical’ truly is a work of art. Bae Tigre-Ranelle Johnson seems to have found her happy place and I wait in anticipation for a second release in the spring of 2015 as well as many more collaborations with artists of the Polkadot Mayhem collective .