Rippling with softly-struck piano strings echoing through a slow accretion of sonorous drone fragments, the opening minutes of Lost in the Rat Maze finds Aidan Baker stepping briefly into the brightly-lit fresh air from the more weather-beaten fuzz and feedback soundscapes of Nadja and some of his other solo releases. Which is not to say that he has abandoned all things gritty and texturally-touched by the warmth of hiss or the overtones of melodies which weave around each other in hypnotic rapture. No, rather that the structures Baker builds from loops, keyboard and guitar speak of an almost optimistic mood here (at least as first), as sections of sound shift across each other in undulating accretions and dissipations, gliding from background to foreground as each segment segues into the next.Muttered words and vocalisations appear and recede into the denser parts of the mix while mechanistic cycles turn and shimmer;there are polyrhythms found in the spaces where overlapping loops accumulate, and the stochastic happenstance of drift and layering ebb and flow in almost circadian rhapsodies marking the passage of time measured in musique concrète methodology. This is particularly notable in the typewriter percussion of the title track, in the fluttering dissolution into amusicality and the emergent throb and pulse which draws up under the by now insistently omnipresent wordless static multitracked voices talking to themselves. Is this a beat, is this the moment where the funk breaks out? Not exactly, no, no yet; but the implication is made and the invitation to move to the rhythm is offered up by “Fanciful Flights,” destination Düsseldorf via Chicago, though the moment of arrival is delayed, reverbed and eventually grounded on the taxiway before an attempt at normal service is resumed and the controls are set for the space above the clouds as the jets spin up and the wheels retract. Rising into the weightlessness of near space and away from the rat race on the ground, the smouldering breaks of “Cut Stars” nod to themselves while Baker”s voice – seemingly channelling Damo Suzuki – takes on a somnolent non-verbal interior dialogue as the low end swells up to seize the moment. But back-masked, mashed-up breakbeats provide the title for a track which brings to mind the hazy, smothered sound of The Third Eye Foundation‘s shoegaze drill’n’bass, though here played in an opiated clubspace drowned in fog and with the PA in the hands of a sleepwalker who has yet to wake from their nightmare of failed escape. “Corridors of Funk”offer little refuge from the sense of dread dream restriction, and they are equally claustrophobic, trilling with mechanised rodents and dense, looming walls of unfathomable Lovecraftian menace doubtless topped with the razor wire which adorns the album sleeve.
All of which is not to say that Lost in the Rat Maze holds that particular icy dread of, say, Striborg, nor the illbient post-dub fug of heavy skunk abuse, but perhaps lies somewhere between, somewhere elevated yet wary, weary and yearning for a soaring deliverance from the bonds of mundanity.