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CD Feature/ Aidan Baker: "Green & Cold"

img  Tobias

The name Aidan Baker and the adjective “prolific” seem to go hand in hand in new music journalism and to many, it is hard to imagine that someone who will most likely be releasing his 50th solo album in seven years time in 2007 (discounting his releases with his Doom Drone project Nadja and the output of improv ensemble ARC) will have something new to say with each record. Actually, Baker is the first to admit it: “I have repeated myself, I know – but I at least like to think that when I am, I’m improving on what I did previously.” That much is certainly true and for a moment, the first few second of the untitled opening track to “Green & Cold”, which sound like a slowmotion version of last year’s “The Sea Swells a Bit”, seem to suggest this is one of those “not entirely fresh, but improved” albums. Only a couple of minutes later we desperately need to backtrack on that statement.

Before we do, though, it seems important to stress that it has always been a pleasure listening to Baker minutely adjusting the contours of his music. The aforementioned “The Sea...” featured a variation of Hokusai’s famous “The Wave” drawing and maybe that makes for an adequate comparison: This guitarist likes clear lines and shapes, his technique inherently implies simplicity and a specific form, with new motives peeling themselves off a constant, looped basis. It is the skillfull inclusion of small irregularities (in this case: layers of pervasively audible, but warm and comforting hiss), of rhythmic asynchroncities and elements moving in non-linear ellipses which turn each piece into something which can be enjoyed even without an exact knowledge of his entire oeuvre. Aidan has cited Neu! as an influence, but despite conceptual differences, Klaus Schulze, whose complete catalogue also seemed to circle around the same chord progressions, melodies and samples, is probably a more appropriate parallel. And yet, “Green & Cold” quickly distances itself from the previous output of the Canadian. Already on the second title, “Chainsaw”, Baker whispers himself through a brushwood of drums stumbling with eyes half-closed, ragged phsychedelic licks and empty bars suspended in time. On “Merge”, an acoustic guitar makes its entrance and things get even more quiet and disturbingly intimate, with different layers of speech running with and against each other – a morbid lullaby. Even though the vocals are hushed and intangible, their impact grows with each listen and I was wrong with my first impression that they merely served as yet another instrument in the dense arangements. With all of their unusual twists and turns, these are veritable songs and the sober title piece is the blues of a painter without paint, his lips all but touching the metal of the microphone. Just when you thought this was a true pop effort, Baker breaks the pattern and returns to some dreamy drones, flitting backward noises and sleepwalking percussion brushes in the final twelve minutes.

Even the purely instrumental contrubutions, though, follow their own path and mostly stay clear of the typical expansions Baker has become famous for – the individual lines seeming more intertwined, more organic and more wayward than ever. Sometimes, this sounds as though two or three different pieces were playing at the same time. At others, however, everything blends together in a bright, iridescent light, just like the end of one track can constitute the beginning of another or vice versa. Nothing is certain on “Green & Cold” and after almost fifty albums, one has to take that as a major compliment.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Aidan Baker
Homepage: Gears of Sand Records

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