Tuesday, 24 January 2012

aidan baker + nadja @ london _ resonance

words _ gian paolo galasi

On February, 28 Important Records will release Excision, a double CD featuring eight tracks, whose lenght is from 10 to 23 minutes, taken from various splits or vynil-only releases of Nadja, the 'ambient-metal',  'ambient-doom', or 'metal-gaze' project of Aidan Baker (guitar, vocals, drums programming, piano, woodwinds) and Leah Buckareff (bass, vocals). 

Now Nadja is committed in a Japanese tour with label mates Vampillia - the 'brutal orchestra' coming from Osaka, the same city that gave birth to the Boredoms exactly 30 years ago - while in March the duo will tour through Europe - no dates in Uk still, even if I asked Aidan to keep me updated on the subject.

Releasing - even not for the first time - for a label whose roster features composers Eliane Radigue, noiser Merzbow, Makoto Kawabata's Acid Mothers Temple extreme psychedelia, sound artist Christina Kubisch and improvisers such as The 13th Assembly [my concert review here] means that it's time, for the now Berlin-based duo, to become recognised outside of the boundaries of such sub-genres as 'shoegaze' or 'metal' by a larger audience as one of the most interesting projects of experimental music you would be able to listen to today.

Aidan Baker is born in Toronto (Ontario, CA), in 1974. A musician classically trained in flute, self-taught on guitar, drums, and various other instruments, he started playing electrict guitar influenced by the likes of Caspar Brotzmann, Glenn Branca and Michael Gira, under his own name and in bands such as Nadja, Whisper Room, Infinite Light Ltd., Adoran, ARC and Mnemosyne.

Composer at the same times for The Penderecki String Quartet, The Riga Sinfonietta, and The Monday Morning Singers, his pieces for guitar are built layer upon layer around the script of stretched sabbathian riffs becoming long sheets of sound obtained in an improvised manner through pedals and effects; the result can be put side by side with Painkiller, Scorn, Sunn O))), Boris, Wolves in the Throne Room, while Aidan has the same makings of Christian Fennesz, Oren Ambarchi, Kevin Drumm or David Daniell.

In fact, the music of Aidan Baker is the result of a careful cross-pollination and sometimes the various niche's listeners found out themselves uneasy with an artist that doesn't love to step back between the boundaries: 

"all the categories and sub-categories are pretty ridiculous and I find it quite bizarre how people seem prone to ghetto-izing themselves [...] I try to incorporate different categories because I think that makes things more interesting... that said, my Nadja material is probably the least cross-pollinating, although it's not exactly "classic" doom metal (I've often had comments from metalheads that it's "too weird").

To make a distinction between "doom" and "drone" metal, you might say that drone is more experimental, in that it utilizes more of a minimalist mandate -- very little movement or variation, repetition, simple polyphonies -- within a maximalist sound. I think drone metal is comparable to some contemporary classical composers like Avro Pärt or Henyrk Górecki, except that one uses guitars and drums instead of strings (or whatever other traditional instruments)."
Aidan Baker interviewed by James Hoerner

While Baker's music can be generally described as somewhere in between post-rock, ambient, electronic and contemporary music, his different projects reflects his attitude beyond schemes and boundaries. Mnemosyne is a space-rock trio, ARC is dedited to improvised and experimental music, while Nadja is more keen on drones.

"I originally formed Nadja a solo, studio-based project in 2003 to explore the heavier, noiser side of drone music (compared to the more ambient, mellower music I make under my own name). Leah joined on bass in 2005 to bring the project out of the studio and perform live. [...] My Akai Headrush looping pedal is pretty integral to my sound. But as much as I rely on pedals, it's technique, not technology that should make the musician. 

[...] [Me and Leah] record in our home studio on a laptop, previously using Cubase but we recently switched to Logic (though we're still trying to figure out how the work the program). We generally record live and use the computer mainly for arranging and mixing and not for generating or effecting sounds."
- Aidan Baker interviewed by Amber Crain

Since 2003, the band has issued about 50 releases on cdr, vynil, 7'' through various labels - Deserted Factory, Nothingness, Alien8, etc. Sometimes the old material is reissued, either remastered or completely rearranged.

The tracks included on the new double Excision come from different recordings spanning from 2007 through 2010: the two versions of Autosomal are taken from the Bodycage Lp issued on Equation in 2007, while Kitsune (Foxdrone) is from 2008's Kodjak/Nadja on Denovali and the last Clinging to the Edge of the Sky was originally on a Vendetta/Adagio 12".

The tracks on the first CD, instead, are all coming from 2008 releases: the opening Jornada del Muerto from Trinity (Die Stadt), Perichoresis from Trinitarian (Important Rec.), Spahn from Tumpisa (Accident Prone), Kriplyana (Melted & Refrozen Snow That Looks Blue In Early Morning) from Magma to Ice (Fario). 

On Jan., 17, Robotic Empire released Baker's new solo effort The Spectrum of Destruction. Another double Cd, but featuring 97 tracks and 18 drummers on them: Mac McNeily (The Jesus Lizard), Ted Parsons (Swans, Godflesh, Jesu, Prong, etc.), David Dunnett (Ca Va Mal), Brandon Valdivia (Picastro), Richard Baker (ARC), Victor Cirone, Jakob Thiesen (Whisper Room, Nadja), Thor Harris (The Angels of Light, Shearwater, Swans), Geoff Summers (Batillus), Alessandro Curvaia (Shora), Simon Scott (Slowdive), Steven Hess (Locrian, Panamerican), Bruno Dorella (OvO), H. Walker (Kerretta), Andrew Crawshaw, Kevin Micka (Animal Hospital), Phil Petrocelli (Jesu, Great Falls, Grey Machine) were asked to provide drum loops over which Baker would have been able to play guitar and bass. 

Conceived as a record in which the listener is encouraged to shuffle through the tracks, the music is at the opposite of Nadja releases. "I wanted to try something big - a large scale project - that would take advantage, challenge, and/or make fun of technology (ipods, random/shuffle feature) and the way people now listen to music. [...]

I had initially intended The Spectrum of Distraction to strictly adhere to this [Aidan talks about the practice he called 'Xenochrony', partly coming from Frank Zappa's Shut Up 'N' Play yer Guitar, based on a random juxtaposition of independently recorded tracks], but as I received material from the various drummers, I thought it would be more interesting (or perhaps just listenable) to approach randomness within the album/songs itself, rather than the instrumentation." - Interview with Der Post Zum Rock

As various as a double CD featuring 97 tracks from less than 30 seconds to about 3 minutes can be, The Spectrum of Distraction reflects possibly Aidan's purpose to match against the solidifying of the music into formulas. 

At the same time, it's really interesting that his way of relating to both the composition and the listening of his work is the same a sound artist like Achim Wollscheid uses, projecting softwares in order to obtain a random generation of sound and light, and giving the listener, on CD, the opportunity to shuffle through tracks. The forthcoming Japan tour with Vampillia - and their March 2012 release The Primitive World - reflects Aidan's attitude towards studying new devices in order to renew and refurbish his music. 

Tour Dates currently available

nadja w/ vampillia japan tour 2012
28-01-12: Shibuya O-Nest, Tokyo, JP
29-01-12: Unagidani Sunsui, Osaka, JP
01-02-12: Club Quatro, Hiroshima, JP
02-02-12: Voodoo Lounge, Fukuoka, JP
03-02-12: Wakayama, Rub Luck Cafe, JP
05-02-12: Soup, Tokyo, JP

aidan baker w/ A-Sun Amissa
15-02-12: West Germany, Berlin, DE
16-02-12: Astrostube, Hamburg, DE
17-02-12: Christuskirke, Bochum, DE
18-02-12: (H)ear, Heerlen, NL
19-02-12: DB's, Utrecht, NL
20-02-12: Waggon, Offenbach, DE
21-02-12: Komma, Esslingen, DE
23-02-12: L'inventaire, Le Mans, FR
24-02-12: L'espace B, Paris, FR
25-02-12: Le Plané Ari Home, Wanquetin, FR

nadja w/ off the international radar
14-03-12: NK, Berlin, DE
15-03-12: Markthalle, Hamburg, DE
17-03-12: Vera, Groningen, NL
18-03-12: Magasin4, Brussels, BE
19-03-12: tba, Ghent, BE
20-03-12: Les Instants Chavires, Paris, FR
21-03-12: Allones, Le Mans, FR
23-03-12: Mix'art Mryrs, Toulouse, FR
24-03-12: L'Embobineuse, Marseilles, FR
28-03-12: Klub Place, Rijeka, HR
29-03-12: Rhiz, Vienna, AT
30-03-12: Kafe Kult, Munich, DE

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