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CD Feature/ Aidan Baker: "The Sea Swells a Bit"

img  Tobias

Aidan Baker’s particularities are slowly turning into a cause for concern: While his name is appearing in the more brightly lit parts of the magazines, his live performances move from the support slot to the main program and his albums to the prestiguous labels of the planet, one can not help but shed a tear for all the reviews focussing solely on his obsessive release schedule, his supposed “looping” technique and how he creates these majestic and mesmerising soundscapes with nothing but his guitar and a few effects. Not because all of this is wrong, but, as “the sea swells a bit” once again proves, there is so much more to his output than these platitudes could ever convey.

Part of the perceptional problem can of course be attributed to the fact that Baker’s music still occasionaly sounds like it is purely loop-based and that the distinction between processed guitar layers and flutes, synths and bass dabbers has never been easy with him. But it is right at the beginning of this record, in the title track, which lasts for twenty-one minutes and relies almost exclusively on a sunshowered slow-motion riff, that the difference between physical repetition and looping becomes obvious – these are organic structures, subtley, but stubbornly pushing forward, requesting - no! - demanding their place, filling the space around them with harmony and gentle yet powerful harmonics and locking the body into a groove. As with most of Baker’s pieces, there is no surprise, no shock, no sudden moment of irritation. At the end, everything still sounds like it did at the beginning - if you are inclined to look at things from a mechanical point of view, that is. What separates these tracks from similarly construed exercises, which simply add one musical element to another, is the absolute necessity and casualty with which this music moves. Apart from these observations, two things have become abundantly clear: Firstly, that Baker has understood the power of merely suggesting things, instead of spelling them out completely. And secondly, how much his dreamy pulsations can profit from the impulses of a drum machine. On two of the three pieces collected here, bass and percussion lay down a relaxed foundation for the music to expand upon like John Scoffield’s groove section in a coma and it does the album a great deal of good.

There is no record by Aidan Baker, which could not serve as a good starting point into his discography. Last year’s “Oneiromancer” was darker, more cantilevered and feverish, the early masterpiece “At the fountain of thirst” more introspective and romantic, but in the context of his work, “The sea swells a bit” decidedly has it own face thanks to its spheric Jazz-connotations and its compact arrangement. And no review in the world could turn that into a weakness.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Aidan Baker
Homepage: Small Voices


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