Last year, rising Transatlantic indie duo Baba Ali — Baba Doherty (vocals) and Nik Balcin (guitar, synths) — released a series of singles through Danger Mouse‘s 30th Century Records, before releasing their full-length debut Memory Device through Memphis Industries to widespread critical acclaim, including features in the Observer and Sunday Times, heavy rotation from KEXP, KCRW and BBC 6 Music, as well as being named BBC 6 Music’s Album of the Day.
The rising duo’s double A side single “Living It Up”/”Black & Blue” act as a bribe between both old and new sonic directions, although both tracks were originally written back in 2020 — before they started working on what would become Memory Device‘s material. As it turns out, the duo put these tracks aside in order to focus on the Memory Device sessions, only to be revisited upon a newfound relevance to how their live show had evolved.
“We ended up reacting to the beginning of lockdown by writing a tonne of new songs in my basement in New Jersey,” Baba Ali’s Doherty says in press notes. “Some of the tracks ended up forming a mixtape that we put out on Bandcamp. ‘Black & Blue’ was a song from that collection of songs, and one we were really happy with at the time, so this was an interesting opportunity to open the track up again and see how our experiences since that period had changed our approach to recording.
“It is a song I am always trying to convince Nik to add to our live set, but I don’t even think he can even remember the tuning he used for it. Hopefully giving the song an official release will kind of force his hands on that one.”
Centered around buzzing synth arpeggios, skittering beats, slashing bursts of guitars, Doherty’s insouciant and dryly ironic delivery, “Black & Blue” is a brooding and slick synthesis of industrial electronica and post-punk that describes love as an experience that’s complex and confusing full of searing, blistering lows and euphoric highs, and made stranger, more dangerous in our increasingly apocalyptic age.
The “Living It Up”/”Black & Blue” double A single is the first non-Yard Act release through Zen F.C., the label run by the band’s James Smith and Ryan Needham. “We loved Baba Ali’s music from the moment we heard it. They’re joining us for our debut album tour in February,” Smith and Needham say in press notes. “When Baba sent through some new tunes he and his bandmate Nik were working on we saw an opportunity to reboot Zen F.C., and to preserve on wax and share some great music with the world. It was a no-brainer for us. We are honoured, we are buzzed to have Baba Ali as the first ever non-YA release on Zen F.C. – follow the label, there will be much more to come in the future.”