'98's Best: Baby Fox Pursue Dub-Blues On Dum Dum Baby

Wide range of styles reflected in band's sophomore album.

Baby Fox vocalist Christine Ann Leach is riding high at the moment -- her

arrangement of a song composed by her late uncle has become Madonna's

current hit, "Ray of Light." But with a new Baby Fox album, Dum Dum

Baby, coming out June 23, Leach has other things on her mind ... such as

the way people are labeling the trio's dreamy, dubbed sound.

"People label our music as trip-hop, but we call it electric dub-blues," she

said of the trio's upcoming album. To be precise, Leach said the trip-hop genre

doesn't incorporate dub-reggae, a pivotal influence of the Baby Fox sound.

"Dub-reggae of the late '70s, early '80s is one of our major influences, and

some people in the trip-hop field don't even know about dub-reggae," Leach

said from Baby Fox's studio in London. "That's why it seems to be a little too

general a label for us."

When it comes to Dum Dum Baby, labels could be somewhat beside the

point. The album has a sweet, melancholic feel that reflects a wide range of

musical styles, from soul, funk and psychedelia to jazz. While such songs as the

title track and "Hallow'een" show a definite pop sensibility within their haunting

atmospherics, the electronica-fashioned "Bad Girl Love" and the strangely

paced "Nearly Beautiful" bob around in the stylistic deep end.

Leach, 29, said the recording of Dum Dum Baby was a matter of trading

inspirations and instincts between herself and her bandmates, multi-

instrumentalist Alex Gray and sample-master Dwight. "We have almost a kind of

psychic connection, the three of us," Leach said. "We understand each other

because we've been friends for so long, and we know what excites each other

musically, so everything happens spontaneously."

Responding to a comment from Gray, Leach said, "Alex is saying drugs is our

biggest inspiration. But that's not really true. That always gets blown out of

proportion. But it's just one of the things that inspire us; it's not all."

Friends since the late '80s, Leach, Gray and Dwight formed Baby Fox in 1993,

releasing their first album, A Normal Family, in 1996. The trio sought a

more dramatic sound for Dum Dum Baby than the more sedate approach

of its debut. "We learned by playing our material live that it's difficult to keep an

audience's attention on very, very mellow stuff," Gray said. "Our first album had

very subtle highs and lows; it was all kind-of 'lie-back-and-take-it-in.' This time

we wanted to make more of a drama, like a film soundtrack."

Gray, whose accomplished string-work on the album stems from his classical

background, said the group constructs many of its songs from one inspiring

sample. Baby Fox also draw from literature, as in "Bluebird," where Dwight

adapts lyrics from playwright Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending."

While Dwight's poetic narrations are generally somewhat deadpan, Leach's

vocals are soulful, sensual and occasionally sinister. Leach said her melodies

express what her obscure, impressionistic lyrics leave out.

"To me, the feeling expressed in the melody is more important than the words,"

she said. "I don't consider myself a particularly good writer in terms of words,

but I do feel that I can use music to discuss ideas. I like the idea of

writing words that don't necessarily make a lot of sense. I like people to have

the freedom to decide what my lyrics mean, based on their mood."