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CD Feature/ Aidan Baker: "Scalpel"

img  Tobias
It all started with „Green & Cold“ on the delicate Gears of Sand Label based in America. One of the most refreshing and unconsumed albums by Aidan Baker. It combined his trade mark drones and guitar manipulations with more song based structures, vocals and percussion. Songs like “Chainsaw”  could  easily have garnered „airtime“ on some local Alternative Music Station.

In my youth, I used to listen to The Cure’s “Pornography” a lot. There was something about the unresolved tension of that album, about its stoic elipses around its own axis, which fueled my imagination. A teenage album, of course, but one with an inescapable pull. Even though Robert Smith’s alcohol-indused madness and Aidan Baker’s sedated melancholia are poles apart, there is a certain closeness between these two visions, a courage to leave everything considered important, necessary and good in terms of songwriting behind and hit each note as if it were the first and the last at the same time.

“Scalpel” on The Kora Records is now continuing down the same route that Baker chose almost a year ago on.  He describes “Scalpel” as his Folk Record. And yes, the ingredients are there. Acoustic Guitar, Violin and a Recorder. Everything is stripped down. An intimate feeling. Imagine Baker sitting at a campfire and playing his songs to just a few of his closest friends. Everyone has their eyes closed, feeling the reverb from the guitar strings. Feeling the airflow from the recorder. Feeling the breath while Aidan is singing.

Essentially, these five pieces are “songs” in the most traditional way. They have more clearly outlined melodic arches than ever before and their arrangements lean on structure rather than texture. Baker’s vocals, too, might still be delivered in an absent-minded daze, but they are no longer just whispers bleeding into the instrumental surface. And yet, this tangibility remains a chimera.

Everything looses itself in the corners of the night, with nothing visible but the scant glow of a solitary candle. “Our needs bear no relation to our desire” stretches its fabric to over eleven minutes, while “Indifference”, a close-miked, sweet-hearted stream-of-consciousness acoustic-guitar-loop peeling itself from blurred backward strummings and balalaika harmonics, makes a quarter of an hour seem like an eternity.

It's already dark outside, while Aidan is playing „Indifference“. Layers of acoustic guitars shifting all around the campfire. The listeners open their eyes, and they still see him sitting in front of the campfire. Now he is the only one with his eyes closed. Layering tone over tone. Playing chord after chord. Picking string for string.

In this space, the potential for a classic grows with each second that lapses on the tranquilised clock. Tracks appear like ever-new formulations of the same ambiance, like metaphors for something which can never be spelled out. Is that still the same tune or has a new song already started? Haven’t I heard this passage before? I’m sure Robert Smith would have liked this kind of ambiguity.

The fire is out. All listeners and friends are gone. Aidan is sitting in the darkness. Satisfied.

By Martin Fuhs & Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Aidan Baker
Homepage: The Kora Records

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