There’s a story about audiobooks that I wouldn’t believe of others. It’s about how singer Evangeline Ling travelled across London from Wimbledon to Shoreditch in her Batman pajamas. She was too exited to be working on music with David Wrench (the Welsh producer and mixer for Frank Ocean, The xx, David Byrne and others) to get dressed. Ling says she’d been up all night with “crazy adrenaline”. I can believe it. All of it. Having been to a few audiobooks live shows, where Wrench sits surrounded by banks of analogue synths and even emulates Rick Wakeman’s hairstyle, and Ling spontaneously River Dances around him and hyperventilates into the microphone, “crazy adrenaline” is, if anything, a downplay. She definitely seems like the type of 21-year-old who wears Batman pajamas, although not because she’s a kook in the check-out-my-Pikachu-onesie sense of the word – she’s a more convincing free spirit than that, like a child whose hyperactivity connects to their eccentricities and presses on into psychosis. ‘Now! (in a minute)’ supports the claim – an anything-goes debut album made up of easy-to-dance-to pop songs and hard-to-explain spoken word odysseys.
It all starts with ‘Mother Hen’ and a mechanical swing beat and North African synth line that weaves around Ling’s angelic vocal. It’s a gentle and instantly interesting beginning, and no doubt twelve more tracks like that would be very welcome indeed. It also sets out Ling’s voice early on, confirming its everyday charm while making it clear just how good it is.
The remaining twelve songs aren’t the same, of course. First there’s ‘Hot Salt’ – the synth hook now has a twist of the Middle East, the beat thumps for the dancefloor and the vocals, shared by Ling and Wrench, become a mix of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and White Town’s sole ’90s hit ‘Your Woman’. It’s as good as pop gets until ‘Friends In A Bubblebath’ later squashes it quite impossibly – a track that combines Italo Disco with the type of euphoric stings that made the Pet Shop Boys so deadly in the ’80s. Ling meanwhile desperately explains that she doesn’t actually want to sleep with you, she just wants to share a bubble bath, y’know, as friends.
It’s lyrics like these that make the album what it is. David Wrench’s part of the deal is to make ‘Now! (in a minute)’ sound as good as it does, and his years of composing and working with sound files are evident in a record that would have fallen prey to getting by on Garageband plugins and zero budget. Ling is audiobooks’ eccentric voice and she’s bold enough to not hide behind even double-take lyrics but rather lay out the absurdity in full view. On the heavily autotuned ‘I Get Be So Swansea’ (even the title appears to feature a strange typo) that’s cooing “Eating muscles, staring at your muscles” and later squealing “All of his children/ He’s got seventeen/ And they don’t like science/ They only took up P.E.” Although spoken word tracks ‘Grandma Jimmy’ (a creepy, dubby number about a perverted trip to the seaside) and ‘Call of Duty Free’ (a nauseous soap opera about air travel) are where Ling gets really weird.
audiobooks also do drone about menstruation (‘Womanly Blood’), in-the-red glitch metal (‘Dealing With Hoarders’) and more. They definitely take the tube in their pyjamas.