Album Review: Bayonne – Temporary Time

[Nettwerk; 2023]

Aesop fabled, “it is possible to have too much of a good thing.” F. Scott Fitzgerald maintained, “too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” The beloved hedonist Mae West believed “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” You might come up with one of your own idioms when it comes to Austin-based artist Bayonne’s third studio albumTemporary Time.

Historically, he does it all himself: writing, playing the instruments, producing, mixing and releasing, but this time he expanded his field working in close collaboration with a number of musicians and co-producers, including Danny Reisch (HAIM, Local Natives), Jon Joseph (BØRNS, Gothic Tropic), and longtime Bayonne drummer Matt Toman.

Nonetheless,Temporary Time sounds like a Bayonne album with its cool falsettos and layer upon layer upon layer of textural electronica creating lush soundscapes suitable for the big screen, long drives, and losing yourself. It gives us all of that while also being a roadmap for loss, suffering, depression, and the panacea of a creative process. With so many artists taking the last few years to create their own phoenix, this one feels like one of the most successful rebirths and evolutions of an artist, while being a proper analgesic for what ails you.  

Starting the tape reel to catch the gentle waltz of a piano opener in “Must be Time”, lulling you into the swish and lapping waves of caramel vocals so sweet to the teeth, you need a good brushing after. The slow skyscraping build through hypnotic loops brings you the familiar live drumming that his devotees know and love. An R2-D2 ender bleeds into bee-bee-boo-boops of “Right Thing”, a faster, chunky drum loop with a grungy synth that flips his “centripetal motion” to one of anxiety and urgency. On first listen this track illustrates a Chiaroscuro-style of his darker electronic side but still light and gentle because after all, it is Bayonne; it encapsulates the angels and demons sitting on the shoulders of those who know too much restraint.  

Whether it is the curving, voluptuous beats of “Is It Time” with its overly-dramatic chord changes and deep “Eyes Without a Face”-like drone, or how he opens a valve of spongy synth pads in “Words” and sprinkles in a voice assumed to be his father, Bayonne’s sprites and fireballs make a bed of balsam all over the album.

“Words” is the finger-picked guitar, ethereal piece of the LP. He adds wind-chimed synths cleansing his space to “do something else / while I lose myself.” “Solo” opens, again with echoey, intricate, and introspective guitar strums muted then under his layered vocal, before we get a little shaker here, a deep strum of electric guitar there, and the rhythm of drum and clap of that signature Bayonne tribal drum groove. His use of live instruments is never heavy-handed. 

“Perfect” is an 80s groove with a fantastic walking synth bass and his female backing vocal adds playfulness to his swing. It is quite simply perfect. “FK”, with its thick compressed drums reminiscent of a Neneh Cherry track, chugs along under a vintage upright piano in this modern ragtime. His clap intro-to-lyrics style creates layers that are not muddled by addition after addition of pristine sounds. A whiplash beat in “Come Down” has its arpeggiated synth assuming the identity of a steel drum. Tracing the decline of a relationship, the track’s textures swirl in a whirlpool with a beat sucked through a vacuum in a sharp inhalation we all feel during those last conversations. However, the deep synth bass warms the belly and he introduces strings and horns to build the track before it drops into a dampened piano, the end.

“Tabitha” has a unique groove in 7/8: a slightly different feel but with the Bayonne aesthetic. It almost sounds poppy, like we are now entering Bayonne’s House – but his house is never vacuous or formulaic and it always serves his Bitchin Bayonne Hot Sauce. He uses drifting arpeggios, deep synth bass, drums marching under ecstatic chords, melancholic melodies, and soaring layered vocals – it’s too densely packed to cut with a butter knife. Each listen uncovers another unique sound buried but one that creates the foundation for lyrics that could be about just about any relationship dynamic you can think of or make up in your mind. 

As he has been accused, within the mesosphere of a Bayonne album, it is easy to lose yourself in his spell so deeply that you forget that you are listening to anything but your own thoughts. That is the point, isn’t it? Music creates or explains our own story. Temporary Time is anything but “new boring.” It is like that glass of champagne, just right.