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Aidan Baker – Already Drowning/Aidan Baker with Plurals – Glass Crocodile Medicine (Latitudes)

Gizeh/Southern

Aidan Baker - Already DrowningAidan Baker‘s Already Drowning marks something of a departure for his solo releases, as each piece finds him collaborating with (in this case, women) singers with lyrical inspiration coming from the likes of Angela Carter, Philip K Dick and various folk sources. recorded over the space of two years, it’s also one of Baker’s most assured works in an already impressive catalogue both as a solo artist and in his many and various bands, not least of which is the ineffable Nadja.

The title song is a slow drum-led number, the kit swinging in a slow rhythm as Clara Engel croons softly. Her voice is as sad as the melancholy bassline, but there is a hint of optimism still in the rising swell of a chord change. The ponderously beatific unwind of “30 Days/30 Nights” provides a skeletal frame for Jessica Bailiff‘s dissected vocal, the mournful strings shivering up to impassioned heights, and perhaps some Godspeed comparisons here wouldn’t go too amiss or awry, especially while the drums sidle in and out.

The segue into “Mélusine” leads to more abstract places, the voices of Valérie Niederoest and Maude Oswald gliding ephemerally between Baker’s jazzy bass and drum shuffle, the whole rising gently before the inevitable wordless decay. A rolling acoustic guitar opens “Mein Zwilling, Mein Verlorener,” accompanying Joanna Kupnicka‘s slightly more straightforward folkish vocal as the song drifts placidly into territories where the words are sung quietly but nonetheless with heartfelt, gentle emotion. Likewise, Geneviève Castrée is in plaintive mood on “Tout Juste Sous La Surface, Je Guette,” though her passion rises along with the music, grasping at stirring outpourings of fuzzy bass and swapping sweeps with Laura Bates‘ violin and Nick Storring‘s cello along the way.

It comes as no great surprise then that with a title (derived from Anna Kavan’s book of the same name) like “Ice,” Liz Hysen‘s track moves at a similarly glacial rate, her words echoed and multitracked subtly across the stereo picture while Baker holds down the accreting rhythm. With its reedy breakdown and reverse motion messed-up melodies, “Ice” has yet another variety of lugubrious jazz aesthetic, and it’s possibly not too far off the mark to imagine black-clad beatniks nodding along appreciatively at an avant-garde Bohemians’ club. Which is where Carla Bozulich could doubtless also be found closing the night with “Lorelei/Common Tongue,” and it sounds like the cabaret next door is bleeding blurrily through the walls as the last of more than a few absinthes of the evening ooze through the snoozy audience’s bloodstream. Is that the green fairy’s haunted bittersweet whisper calling?

Aidan Baker & Plurals - Glass Crocodile MedicineFor his second Latitudes session (the first being with Nadja in 2010) at Southern Studios, Baker brought tour-mates Plurals aboard for two tracks of slow-burning reflection on Glass Crocodile Medicine.

“Dead Foxes In The Street” emerges almost diffidently from silence into slight drones which soon elevate themselves skywards on a vibrato tide nudging calmly at the threshold of a reverberating sonic abyss. As it steps into the void, the music captures a warm concentrated glow, and holds it in wonder for a while, rotating the sounds to examine them from slightly different angles. “Turning Children Into Mice” has more of the air of an improvisation, the bass outlining a figure as the other instruments hold back to scurry, scrape and gather below. As they join in, the various elements clink, chime and express feedback like hints of moon’s milk, coalescing into overlapping pools of fuzz, restlessly hinting at things to come. When they do, it’s like a flock of seabirds – but assuredly not Seagulls – wheeling off in dissolute disdain at the ordinary world, preferring silence instead.

-Linus Tossio-

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