Aidan Baker, “Still Life”

Aidan Baker - Still LifeForget all you think you know about Aidan Baker. In his latest album, Baker strips away all the layers of noise and distortion and presents his most introspective album to date. Still Life is four serene pieces featuring only three instruments: piano, drums, and upright bass.

Still Life was recorded in the winter of 2010 at Commonwealth Studios in Toronto, Canada.

Release date: 5th July, 2011.

Ordering information is not available at this time. Please consult your favorite record stores.

tracklist:

  1. Still Lives
  2. Remembered Time – [Soundcloud]
  3. Refuge from Oblivion
  4. Complex Iconographical Symbiology

Seems like the constant supply of Nadja / Aidan Baker releases has slowed down a bit. There was a time when a week wouldn’t go by without a new releases from one or both. But if fewer releases means more like this new solo record, we’re perfectly happy with the trade off.

As most Baker/Nadja fans know, Nadja records tend toward the bombastic and the metalgaze, seeing as that’s what the duo is all about, but Baker’s solo records are where he really gets to experiment. In the beginning it was mostly like a more minimal version of Nadja, the same sort of droned out drift, just with the volume and heft dialed way back. But then Baker began trying out new sounds, varied approaches, with different instrumentation, which brings us to Still Life, which just might be the prettiest, and maybe even best, solo record we’ve heard from Baker yet. Ostensibly his ‘jazz’ record, recorded using just piano, drums and upright bass, but this isn’t like JAZZ jazz, this is like Necks jazz, droney and minimal, slow building and hypnotic, and Baker adds cool bits of weird production which only enhances the sound. Four loooong tracks, each one a dark miniature epic, the bass muted and minimal, the drums more like the skitter and sizzle of cymbals, while the piano plucks out the melancholic minor key melody, a repeated motif, that unfurls like a slowly mutating loop, it’s not until about 9 minutes in that the rest of the drum kit comes into play, and even then it’s just some barely there snare skitter, and the melody is wrapped in cool swooping effects, very subtle, but it makes the notes sound like they’re swooping in. The first track leads directly into the second, almost as if they were two parts of a single song, this part though is even more spare, the chords on the piano, separated by long expanses of minimal drum shuffle and the slow decay of the bass. This track eventually builds a bit of momentum, the drums subtly more driving, the sound a woozy, mournful lope, definitely falling within the realms of ‘doom jazz’, Baker surprisingly adept on the kit, playing the rims, and unfurling busy little flurries, that manage to add texture without being distracting, and much like the first song, you never really want it to end.

Track three begins with a flurry of piano notes, all upper register, flecked with the occasional bass pulse, the piano getting more and more blurry, Baker subtly affecting the notes, blurring them, smearing them, transforming them into a sort of Lubomyr Melnyk style shimmer, all the while Baker underpins the proceedings with the wood-on-wood click and clatter of stick on drum shell, and at about 7 minutes in, the song shifts, and the low end swoops in, the drums coalesce into a proper rhythm, and the song becomes an ominous creep, all the while that initial flurry of piano plays on in the background, the vibe dark and drowsy and late night, the low end thrum and drums eventually fade out, leaving the song to end how it began with a swirling cloud of tinkling notes on the piano.

And finally, the record finishes off with another stretched out sprawl of hazy, droney hypno-jazz, again the piano offering melody and color, while the bass thrums and rumbles, and Baker keep simple time with stick on shell again, and so it goes, for nearly 14 minutes, an epic haunting minimal drone jazz drift equal parts the Necks, Bohren and Circle at their most murky and minimal. Gorgeous, haunting, beautiful stuff. Fans of the Necks will definitely want this, as will anyone into dark, brooding minimalism and abstract doom jazz drift. – Aquarius Records

Stillleben sind auf dem Vier-Panelen-Digipack von “Still Life”, dem neuen Album von Aidan Baker, zu sehen. Momentaufnahmen aus Aidan Bakers Wohnung und Arbeitsstätte bieten interessante Einblicke in die Welt des stetig aktiven Musikers, der mit diesem Album noch viel interessantere neue Wege beschreitet.

Eigentlich sind Aidan Baker und seine Kramer Gitarre eine unzertrennliche Einheit, doch für “Still Life” hat er genau dieses Instrument beiseite gelegt. Bass, Drums und Piano sind hier die einzigen Instrument, die zum Einsatz kommen. Das Resultat ist ein darkjazziges Album, das geprägt ist von Improvisationen und einer einnehmenden Rhythmik. Auf vier Stücken, die miteinander verflochten sind, zeigt Baker, dass sein Sinn für Kompositionen auch jazzig umsetzbar ist. “Still Lives” stimmt den Hörer mit zurückhaltenden Drums und ruhigem Klavierspiel ein, das im Einklang mit dem Bass einen bedächtig fließenden Sound erzeugt. “Remembered Time” ist ähnlich aufgebaut, doch hier ist das Drumming aktiver, Bass und Piano lösen sich allmählich aus ihrer Einheit und die Variationen und Improvisationen nehmen zu. “Refuge From Oblivion” bricht die Struktur der Platte und wirkt mit seinen freejazzigen Klaviersounds wie ein unzähmbares Jazzstück, das im Verlauf durch die kraftvollen Drums an Struktur gewinnt. “Complex Iconographical Symbology” setzt da wieder an, wo das zweite Lied aufgehört hat, um hier nochmal eine rhythmische Steigerung im Drumming und Bassspiel miteinzubringen. 45 Minuten Jazzkosmos à la Aidan Baker. Ein Muss für jeden Aidan Baker Fan und Freund von Sounds wie denen von Bohren & der Club of Gore oder The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation.

“Still Life” ist auf dem neuen Label Primary Numbers auf CD erschienen. Ihr könnt die CD oder die digitale Version des Albums direkt über Broken Spine Productions, dem Shop & Label von Aidan Baker und seiner Band Nadja, beziehen. – The Post Rock

Aidan Baker is probably best known for his soundscapes that involve droning guitars and ample distortion. But this time out, on his full length Still Life, the Toronto native left the guitars at home altogether. Instead, he performs all of the instruments himself, focusing on piano, electronic manipulations, upright bass, and drums.

Still Life contains four compositions, each exceeding ten minutes in duration, that combine the gradual, inexorable drive of slowcore with inflections of a modern jazz rhythm section and flourishes of avant-classical. Baker doesn’t shy away from crunching dissonance where required. A signature example is the opening of “Refuge from Oblivion,” where cascades of punctilious piano disrupt the calm surface that pervaded the previous track.

Often, multiple layers of rhythm compete for supremacy, creating a multifaceted, but never cluttered, interplay. All the while, there is a slow-brewing underlying pulse that undergirds the whole with a supply architectural sensibility.

Artists seeking to combine experimental music and jazz should take note of Aidan’s fluent amalgamations. – Christian Carey, Sequenza21

Hot on the heels of March’s Only Stories, Aidan Baker has again put together a cohesive ambient piece that soothes and lulls. While Only Stories was essentially a reworking of Scalpel with even more minimalist tendencies, Still Life captures the concept of its title perfectly with a almost lounge-esque aesthetic. In writing this record, Baker has left his guitar at home and created four mood pieces with only piano, drums and bass.

Naturally the composition is based around the piano work, which both leads and supplements the music, bouncing on the soft and cushioned rhythm section. For the most part, Still Life is a gentle and placid arrangement – it’s an almost perfect accompaniment to lethargic winter days. Though of course Baker is not an artist to be pigeonholed, and his eccentricity shines through on several occasions – ‘Complex Iconographic Symbology’, juxtaposes rather eerily with the first two songs, conjuring an extremely dark mood that takes the record to its end. Another peculiar example is the midsection of ‘Refuge from Oblivion’, comprising of a frenetic and disorderly piano line, which, ironically, is no refuge from oblivion.

Still Life sits as another excellent addition to Baker’s burgeoning discography. As with many ambient artists, Baker has the ability to produce large quantities of music, but what easily separates Baker from others is the consistency and quality that surrounds his work. – Rasputin, Sputnik Music

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