Sunday, 30 August 2009

Aidan Baker: Two Collaborations And A Double Vinyl LP

It’s been a long time without reports about this perennially inspired man, who seems to have found the preferred method of expression – and growing quantities of success – with Nadja, his duo with Leah Buckareff. But when one listens to the following projects, shades of the Baker of old are still there to be in awe of.

AIDAN BAKER / TIM HECKER – Fantasma Parastasie

Toronto versus Vancouver (where Hecker was born), about 33 minutes for 66 tracks divided in cycles of 11, the music nevertheless flowing without interruptions. This record sounds like a slightly irregular parade of moods: the piece starts with mind-altering digital crunch, continues with layered overdriven guitars, walks across calmer interludes replete with delicately clean arpeggios, ends with looping rotations halfway through distress and melancholy leading into a wonderfully humming finale, low frequencies wavering all over the place swallowing our resistance while increasing the sense of doubt. Unintentional echoes of Fennesz and (more vaguely) Basinski are alternated with the most caustically critical situations, distortion often on the verge of timbral degeneration. Not exactly one of the musts, but overall a pretty solid outing. (Alien8)


Much longer than the above release at circa 64 minutes, the joint effort of Baker with J.D. Jung (aka The Infant Cycle) is also a tad more ear-gratifying, perhaps due to the larger time span which allows a wider range of diffusion to ideas and sounds - and, consequently, a better penetration of memory. Two of the four pieces were originally released in 2002 as Rural (on Blade Records) The distinct personalities are well visible, the conjunction of the prevalently mechanical character of TIC’s instrumentation with AB’s ever-expanding steamy auras working quite nicely. A sickish cyclicality remains at the basis of an engulfing kind of estrangement which only rarely gets soothed by characteristically celestial cracks caused by the Canadian’s stratified cries (which, for my taste, have always brought superior results when those lysergic fuzzy guitar lines are discarded, leaving the looping mass alone to overwhelm a transfixed listener; Baker is still the man when it comes down to that). An appreciable game of proposal and acceptance of reciprocal suggestions between the artists, translating into a genuine will of sounding a little different than expected. Definitely a good one, yet it takes a while before realizing. (Zhelezobeton)

AIDAN BAKER – Gathering Blue

This limited edition 2-LP set could represent an acceptable solution for those who missed a few significant works by the Canadian loopmeister which were published - in similarly scarce quantities – years ago in different formats. It comprises in fact some of his most morbidly hypnotic pieces (in which Baker also utilizes the voice in typically whispered style) like The Taste Of Summer On Your Skin, Remixes and Cicatrice, not to mention the cover of Joy Division’s “Twenty-Four Hours”. While the music remains to this day absolutely compelling, an exquisite taster of what this man can elicit via the sheer superimposition of infinite notes and ghostly murmurs, it should be emphasized that the choice of releasing this stuff on vinyl makes sense only if we consider Gathering Blue a collector’s item. I hate clicks and pops when listening to something that’s able to mesmerize to such an extent, can’t stand the degradation of low frequencies whose power can’t be contained by the grooves, and equally loathe the reality of having this level of entrancement repeatedly interrupted to flip the disc and start again. Still, these four sides contain high-quality materials from which a lot of people have been fishing ideas and impressions unashamedly, thus making obvious the uniqueness of Baker’s impressively prolific mind and stretched-out artistic vision. (Equation)