It’s nearly three minutes into “Solitude,” the first EP from German-American artist/producer BAYEM, before you even hear a beat.
Track one opens with a steadily intensifying surge of sound, off-kilter glorious and swelling like an electric sunrise before layering in a mini-monologue from Destiny Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia. She talks about personal evolution being inextricably tied to alienation, neatly weaving together the main themes of what BAYEM describes as “a 7-track look into my life in 2019.”
Released in Spring 2020, Bayem’s creation lands squarely in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked how it feels to put out a record called “Solitude” in the midst of worldwide social distancing, he succinctly deems the situation “kind of funny, kind of ironic.” The time he spent by himself, a whole year of focusing on music and traveling the country, gives the music an introspective, confessional feel. It’s as if you can hear him working out each theme and weaving it into the larger composition.
That time spent solo may also have nourished the sense of openness and vulnerability that suffuses these songs. It runs throughout, from “LA,” which you might assume is a sordid tale of revelry and decadence, but is in fact just the opposite, to “Confidence,” which is actually about the *absence* of confidence. Bayem takes his time introducing each new idea, and when the beats do come in, they provide a warming, propulsive cadence that might remind you of steady bumps on an endless highway.
From his experience working multiple jobs to bumming out of his car to making his first, less-than-successful trip out west, “Solitude” constitutes an autobiographical Bildungsroman about an artist continuing to explore.
“The ideal reaction is just having it speak to people,” Bayem says of this recording, co-produced by @TurnerDunlop. “The best thing I could ever ask for is for someone to reach out and say it spoke to them, or they related to it, or even that it’s helping them through something.” Now that we’ve all got something we all need help getting through, “Solitude” feels particularly timely.