Review Summary: One of the happiest, most creative albums Emma has ever made
Emma Essex has a lot of weird albums in her discography but this might just be the weirdest. 17 tracks (19, not counting the original masters, if you grab ROBOT BRAINSTRONAUT BLASTOFF!!! TURBO, which I wholeheartedly recommend doing) of just pure creative exploration. There are a great number of records in which Emma explores shades of hardcore that don't quite fit neatly into a specific subgenre but this is another level. RBB is Emma taking a huge spread of her influences and making a truly singular record. It's not just a creative curveball for Renard - an alias that, apart from borderline ***post album A Picture of Finn Farting and charitable sketch compilation Full Techno Jackass, hadn't explored much outside the bounds of mashcore, ravecore, and raggacore since about 2006 - but also Emma's music as a whole, representing one of the first instances of her really straying off the path and making a truly indefinable listening experience.
One thing that sets RBB apart from other Renard albums is the sense of childlike wonder it's filled with. Emma has made a lot of happy sounding albums, and a lot of silly albums, but never has she made an album that so perfectly captures the adventurous imagination of a child. Make Believe is a perfect opener (err, ignoring Pendleton Ward's 30 second spoken word intro) because it's literally a song about imagination. From there, you Blast Off into space, and explore all the weird and wonderful sights and sound combos Emma can picture. From Great Expectations's delightful expression of joy through happy hardcore synths and digipunk drums to I Updated My F-List's electropop-dnb declaration of self over a cacophany of chopped breaks, brostep growls, and jazzy bass noodling, the front half of this feels like a real statement of intent to me. It's music that says "*** limitations, this is the music I want to make based on all the dreams I had as a kid."
From there, the gets a bit more explicitly silly and dancefloor-oriented. Paradise Mirage is a super groovy collage of ravebreaks, house, and space ambient with some great basslines, while Your Energy has a hideously catchy chorus set to the most saccharine possible interpretation of raggacore. I don't think the songs on this half are as strong as the ones on the front half, and sometimes they feel more like silly concept mashups a-la A Picture of Finn Farting than the front half's purposeful exploration of sound, but there's some great songs to be found here.
The closer, Don't Quit Friends, feels a lot to me like the credits at the end of an 80s movie. It's surprisingly melancholy, really selling a sense of loneliness and comradery found in said loneliness through jarringly real images of small town Canada, pulling you out of the fantasy and reminding you that, for all the wonderful imagination you've been doing, you're still stuck in a real, mundane world. But hidden in that loneliness and resignation is a bright spot of hope: a pep that makes you feel like maybe, together, all the lonely people can imagine something wonderful, and a fade over goofy sequencer funk.
I think this is the most genuinely happy any of Emma's music has ever sounded. There's no shortage of releases under her belt expressing a very potent sadness (see About for a truly somber musical experience), but for all the hypersaccharine Furries in a Blender and Bandetto songs she's made, very little of her sugary music feels genuinely happy to me on a personal level. RBB is the exception: an album where I genuinely believe that Emma was happy making it, and expressing a very special part of her soul. For all the silliness, I don't think it's unreasonable to say it's one of the more personal records she's made, intentionally or not. It's certainly more than some generic breakcore album, and really worth an open-minded listen, even if you haven't gotten much out of previous Renard albums.