Review: Gizmo – Red Balloon

Gizmo Red Balloon

Out this week is Gizmo’s debut album Red Balloon. I have to thank my girlfriend for this inadvertent recommendation. In fact, she didn’t recommend the album itself; she put me onto The Revivalist and this was one of the first posts I read about. Upon listening, I was right to be curious. It’s such a mellow album, with Gizmo’s beautiful vocal performances and bass play mixed with Casey Benjamin’s vocoder action (that’s an actual vocoder, not to be mistaken for the Autotune crap T-Pain uses). Tracks like Sleepbah with its jazzy bass leading into rock fusion overtones like a musical travel through time. Invalid has a great 90s boom bap vibe and some thought provoking rhymes from Raydar Ellis for you to digest. Dancing reminded me instantly of the kind of work Erykah Badu had put out during the early 00s on Mama’s Gun, an album with a similar stylistic approach to this one. But for me, I think Lift Me Up is the best of the lot. As I had previously tweeted, it’s a baby making tune. Set some candles out (away from anything flammable of course) and pop this on. It’s slow, smooth and the production takes care of the rest.

The instrumentation gives the impression that it’s live and I wouldn’t be surprised if each track took one or two takes to complete. This is thanks to Derrick Hodge who produced the entire album. Talking to The Revivalist, he explained that he told Gizmo to “give them yourself, for better or for worse” and I definitely hear that open rawness in the music. I definitely think that’s an aspect missing from modern music – the no holes barred type expressionism where everything is stripped down to what the artist is saying and the emotions conveyed. Of course, top quality production can work with this and it’s definitely not something to be overlooked but there’s nothing wrong with a minimalist approach sometimes and I think this album has it.

Needless to say, this kind of freedom isn’t as readily available in the disposable culture we’re living in right now so this is a brave album and it sounds like the courage has paid off.