AIDAN BAKER :: Multi-view

Aidan Baker‘s doom ambient duo Nadja with fellow Torontonian, bassist Leah Buckareff has long been a successful going concern, but his solo discography was already bulging before they began their collaboration and he remains a unique, inquisitive solo artist. Selections from the last twelve months or so (give or take) testify that he is still a patient man with a guitar (add his heartrendingly gorgeous Loop Studies on Paradigms Recordings to the list) with as clear a vision as ever, though now not rarely set to a beat.

Aidan Baker Noise Of SilenceAidan Baker :: Noise of Silence (Essence Music)—From the discerning Essence Music house in Brazil, a piece originally released as a limited CDR five years ago, now clad in resplendent silver, green and black. Noise of Silence is a whispering fog and spectral melody spontaneously composed out of treated guitar and tape loops, whose chants and musings spiral agonizingly into a churning maelstrom of bad electricity. Genuinely, gothically frightening, Edgar Allen Poe unstrung by the voices of concentration camp victims. Baker slowly reigns the whirlwind in, but the restored atmospheric calm only allows disembodied voices to be heard more distinctly, in particular the words of the heroic Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian general whose attempt at preventing the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was hobbled by the United Nations. His words are just too terrible. But the album is one of Baker’s most praiseworthy achievements.

Aidan Baker 'Closure Axioms'Aidan Baker :: Closure Axioms (The Miskatonic Soundlab)—Recorded in Berlin, where Baker now resides, and released in Poland, Closure Atoms is classic, ambient Baker, a man alone with his guitar conjuring up an even greater loneliness of the mind. Extremely introverted, almost all of the nine track titles make reference to imperviousness of some form and one, “Idempotence,” an abject reference to the fact that further action will have no additional effect on any outcome, a mathematical principle turned into fatalistic Weltanschauung. Despite this, he gently and effectively treats his guitar to conjure a slightly distressing conversation of violins on the seventh, title track, while evoking pure, arcadian contentment on the final one. Baker produces a pretty, downright dreamy collection of intersecting pieces over a near hour. The perfect companion for those who like to be not quite alone with their thoughts.

Aidan Baker w/Kevin Micka 'Green Figures'Aidan Baker w/Kevin Micka :: Green Figures (Basses Frequences)—A companion piece to Blue Figures, released in 2009 on the same label, and Green & Cold, two years before that, released elsewhere. Long, drawn out riffs with bass thrum and brief, almost crestfallen song. Green Figures is more of a jazz album, immaculately recorded live in Montreal by Eric Quatch (Baker collaborator thisquietarmy). Two tracks are new interpretations from Green & Cold, bookending a track called, like two on the previously-mentioned, “Figures.” Though equally restrained, “Green Fields” is more extrovert, in fact it fairly beams. “Chainsaw” has a loping guitar figure that is somehow reminiscent of the Californian coast. Kevin Micka’s plain, unspectacular drumming, especially the prominent cymbal brushing, is surprisingly necessary in lending this song its light and life, far beyond just keeping the beat. “Figures” is less uplifting in message but cannot convincingly maintain a melancholy cast, not with that ringing, sun-speckled guitar. It’s an exhilarating, unbroken forty minute performance.

Aidan Baker 'Still Life'Aidan Baker :: Still Life (Primary Numbers)—This time, Baker mans the drum kit, but he has put down his guitar to play piano (though he still keeps the bass within reach), transforming himself into a deeply absorbed jazz trio. It is indeed still, with Baker seeming to seek something as he tentatively kisses the cymbals and thinks aloud at the piano, collecting abstract thoughts. He mulls them over three long tracks, becoming more intimate with the sticks and snare, very discreetly treating a few of the notes that float free from the main stream of his cogitation, becoming increasingly free-form at the piano on “Refuge from Oblivion” before finally arriving at a logical conclusion, an elegant, accessible, if moody riff. Disarmingly named “Complex Iconographic Symbology,” it is anything but – the drum stick peppily keeping rimshot time, the piano going round in a simple, serious but appealing circles, hand-in-hand with the bass. Housed handsomely in a sturdy, eight-panelled wallet, featuring close-ups of everyday items I imagine were lying around his Toronto studio—a bottle, a clock, a coin lying on some sheet music, a ceramic gnome, some potted heather.

05_aidan-baker-spectrum-distractionAidan Baker :: The Spectrum of Distraction (Robotic Empire)—The Spectrum of Distraction looks like a young adult adventure mystery novel, like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew (the wonderful illustrations by Matt Smith earn him a front-cover credit), reads like one too (track titles like “War with the Evil Power Master,” “The Antimatter Formula” and “Vanished!”), and after flexing its muscles to warm up, finds a rhythm’n’blues groove, but that’s not what it’s all about, because you haven’t read the instructions yet. Nearly one hundred tracks have been designed to be played on “random” and feature a total of eighteen different drummers in a great big dog pile. It also comes with a code card opening the door to “extended and remixable” tracks from the album. The opportunities are labyrinthine, but a straight play-through also has its advantages.

Some “suites” truly take hold of the listener. On the other hand, like in a maze, you come up against a lot of walls and culs-de-sac, too, where the music stops dead in its tracks. But you can hardly protest that you haven’t been forewarned—the two discs are called “ADD” and “OCD,” respectively. And the album title does promise to run the gamut of distraction. It is to Baker’s credit that the drummers are in the spotlight, in an appealing, non-soloing sort of way, and many of them give well-integrated but distinctive performances. He alone plays guitar and plays it—absolutely wails on it—to a greater extent than treats it, as we are used to from the majority of his previous solo efforts.

It’s a puzzle without a definitive, Rubik’s cube-like solution, it’s an Edwardian adventure story, it’s a vintage arcade video game, a tool box, a jazz album, a lot of histrionic metal, a little psychedelic rock, only very fleetingly ambient or immersive, and the odd, really likeable, melodic jam, including “Mystery of the Secret Room, Part 2″ (at 2’33” one of the longest tracks on the album). It’s a sprawling set of acute strategies with which to get mechanically involved.

For more information about Aidan Baker, visit his website at

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