How do you come back from a devastating life event that has sapped your will to create music? That’s the challenge Massimo Giunta from Babylonia faced when his bandmate and dear friend, Robbie Rox, died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2011. This turn of events, on the heels of the group’s biggest successes, left him emotionally broken and deeply discouraged, wondering how he could carry on. Could he still create beauty in a world that took so much from him?
Thankfully for us, Max decided to move forward with Babylonia as a tribute to Robbie. He poured his feelings of loss, grief and uncertainty into his music. What emerged from this process is Multidimensional, Babylonia’s latest album – a gorgeous collection of heartfelt songs. Its 13 tracks are inspiring, dramatic and run the gamut from moving ballads to rocking synth anthems; they are among the best songs the group has ever written.
Motel la Solitude, Babylonia’s last album released in 2010, has been one of my all-time favorites and near the top of my frequently listened-to synthpop albums. It was hard to imagine how Max could top the high mark it established. But, remarkably, he has done so, and then some. Max has created a gorgeous collection of songs that must be experienced to be appreciated.
The overarching themes of Multidimensional are love and beauty; the depths of emotions expressed in the songs are stunning. The lyrics are sometimes anguished and raw, sometimes inspiring and hopeful. Max walks a fine line, but never plunges us into darkness. Multidimensional is ultimately an album about hope, faith and healing. He has succeeded in translating his difficult emotional journey after Robbie’s death into some truly amazing music.
Past fans of Babylonia will immediately recognize a number of songs that follow the group’s distinctive style, plus others that extend it in exciting new directions. The variety of songs is also quite impressive – from soaring ballads to rocking synth anthems – it’s all here, and it’s fantastic!
Here are some highlights from Multidimensional:
Penumbra: The opening number immediately puts us in an ethereal place, with an epic-sounding synth line and Max’s soaring vocals. You immediately feel as if you’re just beginning an amazing adventure. As the album notes state, “the track reveals to us the elusive, mysterious moment of bewilderment that follows after we leave the earthly world, when the soul’s path in this dimension reaches an end.”
Save the World: This sounds very much like a traditional Babylonia song, with a driving drumbeat, synths playing around my ears and Max’s distinctive vocals. The lyrics speak of “you and I” living on different planes of existence and a “higher plane of consciousness” – clearly a reference to Robbie, or possibly God – apart, yet somehow mysteriously still connected. “Love connects the universes/Elevating our senses/We will save the world tonight/Seeds of an immortal Beauty/Tangled souls with special duties/Side by side, together/We will save the world tonight.” This track has a breathtaking layered arrangement that I love.
1+1=1: One of the darker songs on Multidimensional – and I do mean that in the best possible way. The synths, guitar and Max’s vocals in the verses are quite dramatic and epic-sounding. The lyrics that tell a story of deep mourning and uncertainty: “I can hardly breathe/I can hardly wait to breathe/Is this the dark night of my soul?/Is this what God planned for my role?” The chorus is brighter and more hopeful: “Just beyond the veil/Don’t even know where/Don’t even know when/With open arms, yeah we will meet again.” The song spins back and forth between these opposing emotions with great nimbleness, creating a truly memorable, haunting track.
Love is Healing: This track is the first single from Multidimensional. It’s a ballad in which Max shares with us what he’s learned from his journey through darkness into light: “Yes, I still feel the pain/It will always remain the same/But I’m feeling alive/God, I’m feeling alive again” … “Now I get the meaning/Love is healing/Just let it take/Let it take care of you.” In other words, the only universal force that can soothe a wounded soul and get us back on our feet again is love. Violins, guitars and synths combine into a wonderful arrangement.
I Breathe: Soaring violins and Max’s plaintive vocal open this track, which leads you to believe it’s going to be a ballad. After this soft intro, the track starts to pound with an entrancing, energetic beat. The lyrics tell a story of hope and faith: “The darker the night/The brighter the stars/The deeper the grief/The closer is god” … “Sometimes I crawl/Into my skin/To lose myself/Far from the world/But tonight my eyes are blind/There is something precious in store for me/Tonight you are the air that I breathe.” This is an awesome, uplifting song, which is probably why it was chosen to be the second single from Multidimensional.
Traces of You: Reverberating synths, acoustic guitars and Max’s vocals combine into a spellbinding mix on this track. This song also has an uplifting message about Max’s new-found faith: “In the sunshine/In the moonlight/From alpha to omega/Everything starts and ends with you too/No matter when or where/Wherever here or there/You’ll never be too far.” He now has a clear direction and a deep sense of love, faith and hope in whatever lies ahead: “Though my weary steps may falter/I’m just a man made of flash and bones/I’ll always kneel at your altar/When you’re around/I feel safe and sound/I know you’re the holy path/That leads me to heaven.” It’s not an overtly religious song, but it does have a strong spiritual element to it. Is Max talking about God or seeing Robbie once again in the afterlife? Max lets the listener decide.
Down the Road: This song takes us on a darker turn, lamenting the powerlessness and fragility we often feel in this life. The song’s dramatic arrangement interweaves electronic sequences and analog noises and sounds to give the impression of a murky, shadowy world. That’s reinforced in the song’s bitter verses: “I’ve been down the road/Of desolation/Holding my own head/In my hands/I’ve been down the road/Of ruination/Sinking with my bed/Into the shifting sands.” Yet even here there is hope and light, in the song’s uplifting chorus: “We’re so fragile/Can’t you see how fragile we are/Just hold my hand and I’m blessed/Please give me a shelter to rest/‘cos we’re so fragile like a butterfly’s wings.” Down the Road’s dramatic arrangement makes it one of my favorite tracks from Multidimensional.
The Sign: Another dramatic, dark-sounding track with swirling vocals, synths and drums. The lyrics symbolicly refer to various religious images. Once again, the verses take us into the darkness (“There was a time/I was forsaken/No feelings, no hope/No chance of escape.”) while the chorus provides us with salvation and hope (“You are the Sign/In this heart of mine/I knelt to pray/With no words to say/I was astray and so blind/Until I saw the Sign.”). It’s a profoundly moving track that’s another one of my favorites.
Where Beauty Lives: Max’s plaintive voice is a perfect match for a slow, moving piano and acoustic guitar ballad like this one. Once again, the evocative lyrics straddle the line between light and darkness: “Now my heart is old and bruised/I watch my life pass me by/My mind becomes confused/To the wind I whisper my cry” and “But I know where Beauty lives/You took me there/And showed me where/The roses are in bloom.” While the light/dark references may sound repetitive and formulaic, they aren’t at all. They are simply a recurring theme, which Max sculpts in a myriad of engaging ways on this album.
Embrace Me: In this excellent mid-tempo track, Max explores the duality of the smiling mask we often present to the world, which is at odds with the emptiness we feel inside. The solution? Ask god to embrace him, to keep him “safe from harm.” He doesn’t feel healed, strong and self-confident. On the contrary, he is still weak, broken and weary. But he has a sure-footed path to follow: “Oh I feel so weary and small/Adrift in this creaking world/I need you/I don’t give up ‘cos when it’s time/I’ll leave the ocean behind/And fly to you.” He’s looking beyond this world to the next, where he can leave pain and sorrow behind. Once again, there’s a spiritual message to this song, but Max artfully underplays it, and lets the listener draw his or her own conclusions.
A Te Che Resti: This closer is the only Italian-language song on Multidimensional. With a sparse vocal, acoustic guitar and synth arrangement, it provides a snapshot of the feelings a person has for those who have headed for pastures new, while they themselves are left behind to survive.
As I’ve explained in this review, Multidimensional contains plenty of contrasts – darkness and light, brokenness and redemption, hopelessness and renewed hope. Ultimately, this interplay creates a rich aural tapestry that makes it one of the best synthpop albums of 2015. I can’t imagine a better follow-up to Motel la Solitude, and I can’t wait to see where Max takes Babylonia from here.
Whatever direction he decides upon, I’m certain it will be amazing!