REVIEW: Aidan Baker – “Concretion”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

ConcretionToronto native and writer-musician Aidan Baker has issued a three song disc totaling fifty-minutes of ambient electronica, which he labels as music with "deconstructive sonic possibilities." Classically trained in the flute and self-taught on the guitar and other assorted instruments, Baker has a bevy of musical releases to coincide with his poetry. If Concretion is a musical extension of his literary work, one might presume that Baker works and feels comfortable in a fugue.

The twenty-three minute opener, When You Scream I Can See Your Skull, strives to be epic, yet fails to be grandiose with its drawn-out marathon of coldwave that smothers the frolicking digital and occasional guitar that subliminally materializes and jockeys for space between the long-shifting tempos in the latter parts. Like other musicians in this experimentalist genre, this track takes itself too seriously and lambastes the listener, who is searching for the hidden beauty in Baker's work, obviously there, but not omnipresent.

However, Baker assembles a very crafty follow-up track, 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime. Based on a French-Canadian hymn, Wintertime is a perfect expression of Baker's poetry with its somber tones that offer something concrete and tangible in the project amidst the harrowing coldwave, which, ironically, go hand-in-hand. Too bad more musicians practicing this discipline of music haven't learned this lesson. Wintertime seems to have a loss of faith theme about it. As the key tones lose their melodic way, so too does Baker's muse, especially when chaos reigns supreme in the track, ripping away fragments of reason with his dreadful splices of disorder. The tones fight back desperately to be heard, as if searching for the epiphany that will serve as their salvation and ultimately let them play freely. By the track's end, the tones resume cautiously but assuredly. Has Baker's muse found faith once again? He leaves a vague, but hopeful ending, the stamp of a true poet.

That hope, alas, is squashed by the dark and brooding closer, Sequestered" Brutal and chock full of outrage, the track begins with a soothing piano melody that rapidly gets lost within itself, slipping into melancholy and accompanied by Baker's aloof guitar. The pair grows distant from each other, as well as the listener, suddenly growing angrier and angrier, leaving one to imply Baker is sharing something with his audience that is truly upsetting to him. Piercing shrills at the ten minute mark cry out and near-harpsichord-like synths puncture the eardrum by conveying rage with hidden guitar strokes that indicate frustration. Perhaps Baker is frustrated with his craft, frustrated with someone or something in his life, but it is apparent he is deeply disturbed on this track. Baker effectively shares his scarred emotions by pissing off the listener in turn on Sequestered. Thanks for sharing, man.

Aidan Baker has a gift, most definitely. Concretion drops clues that he has abundant talent, as well as a promiscuous muse. Perhaps this genre of music allows him to wax and wane in a true sense of bloodletting, but, aside from the second track, it seems painful to know that there is something deeper, richer and more fulfilling waiting to spew forth from his mind and fingers.

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