Tuesday, March 2, 2010
AIDAN BAKER "LIMINOID/LIFEFORMS" (Alien8 Recordings)
A gorgeous/boring new suite of recordings from Aidan Baker. A few reviews back i gave him a lackluster review for his half of the split with Noveller and i stand by it-it simply wasn't on a level with his best work and felt slight, even "phoned in" for an artist of his creativity. This duo of suites on Alien8 corrects that (for the most part) and shows what he's truly capable of producing given the proper time allowance and compositional freedom. As the title indicates, this is two pieces spread across one lengthy album (almost 70 minutes) with each piece having its own origin and identity. "Liminoid" is the better of the two recordings and documents a live performance by Baker and a few collaborators, tearing through a mostly improvised but obviously planned drone recording that hovers comfortably in the realm of Neu-inspired krautrock and achieves a true sense of ethereal beauty as it progresses through its various dynamics. Spread across the span of 25 or so minutes the piece moves through the familiar guitar drone of Baker's solo recordings into a subdued tribal freakfest driven by pounding drums and a repetitive vocal chant, both elements that would usually be out of place on one of Baker's solo explorations but make perfect sense here. These explorations of the primitive seem redolent of his work with trio Ark but are less aggressive and more focused on relaxation. They all build up to an absolutely honey-sweet crystalline drone of astounding purity and power, a thick sort of gorgeousness that wipes the planet with its saccharine appeal and leaves room for little disenchantment. It's a lovely movement, perfectly composed and paced, and feels totally natural despite its obvious conduction. "Lifeforms" is slightly more problematic in that it just pales in comparison to its predecessor. There's a large of amount of talent involved, most notably in the presence/contributions of avant-noise artist Knurl (he has a sheer wicked set for amplified toaster-no shit-on the No Music fest compilation from a few years back) but it all seems to go to waste, or rather to serve a very mellow, muted drone that never builds to the level of intensity that you want it to. Baker has shown time and again that he's capable of taking these drones to formidable, even deafening levels (see his work for Crucial Bliss for evidence) and given the collaborators present you'd figure he'd go there again-but instead "Lifeforms" languishes in a tepid, drained microcosm, a bubble stripped of musical oxygen where sounds just limply hang around waiting to expire. It's certainly a relaxing set but it isn't engaging in the slightest. I don't know if i've gotten to the point where i'm just expecting too much of drone music or whether Baker is just hacking one out here (i suspect the second option) but this piece falls flat for me. I guess 35 good minutes out of 70 isn't all bad.