Nadja: Thaumogenesis (, 2007) DL Nadja: Primitive North (Robotic Empire, 2009) DL The History of Rock Music. Aidan Baker: biography, discography, review, links

Aidan Baker

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

Nadja: Touched (2002), 5/10
Nadja: I Fall Into You (2002), 5/10
Nadja: Letters (2002), 5/10
Nadja: Skin Turns to Glass (2003), 6.5/10
Nadja: I Have Tasted the Fire Inside Your Mouth (2004), 6.5/10 (EP)
Nadja: Truth Becomes Death (2005), 6.5/10
Nadja: Bodycage (2005), 6/10
Nadja: Bliss Torn from Emptiness (2005), 6/10
Nadja: Radiance Of Shadows (2007), 6.5/10
Nadja: Thaumogenesis (2007), 7/10
Nadja: Guilted By The Sun (2007), 6/10 (EP)
Nadja: Trinity (2008) , 5/10
Nadja: Trinitarian (2008), 5/10
Nadja: The Bungled And The Botched (2008), 5/10
Nadja: Desire In Uneasiness (2008) , 5/10
Nadja: Belles Betes (2009) , 6/10
Nadja: Under The Jaguar Sun (2009), 6/10
Nadja: Autopergamene (2010), 5/10
Nadja: Ruins Of Morning (2010), 5/10
Nadja: Sky Burial (2011), 5/10
Nadja: Dagdrom (2012), 5/10
Nadja: Flipper (2013), 5/10
Aidan Baker: Oneiromancer (2006), 6/10
Aidan Baker: Pendulum (2006), 6.5/10
Aidan Baker: Noise Of Silence (2007) , 7/10
Aidan Baker: Book of Nods (2008), 6/10
Aidan Baker: Gathering Blue (2009), 5/10
Aidan Baker: Liminoid/ Lifeforms (2010), 6/10
Aidan Baker: Lost In A Rat Maze (2011) , 5/10
Aidan Baker: Only Stories (2011), 5/10
Aidan Baker: Still Life (2011), 6/10
Aidan Baker: Closure Axioms (2012), 5/10
Aidan Baker: The Spectrum Of Distraction (2012), 5/10

Toronto-based composer Aidan Baker carries out a three-fold career: soundscupting under his own name (using the electric guitar as a primary sound source), progressive-rock in the trio ARC, doom metal under the moniker Nadja (started in 2003 as a solo project but later transformed into a duo with bassist Leah Buckareff).

After the tentative Touched (2002), the minimal glitch soundscapes of I Fall Into You (Public Eyesore, 2002 - Basses Frequences, 2008) and the degraded lullabies of Letters (2002 - Basses Frequences, 2008), Nadja began to focus on collections of colossal drone-intense jams with the three juggernauts of Skin Turns to Glass (2003): the 14-minute Sandskin weaves together thick gritty droning guitar riffs a` la stoner-rock and martial monster beats; the 18-minute Skin Turns To Glass unleashes superhuman pomp tying horror vocals to a dense boiling flow of minute audio particles (and then slowly but methodically buries everything with a last breath, random piano notes and sparse drumming); and the 19-minute Slow Loss starts out with a wall of guitar distortions and a booming drumming massacre (but then doesn't quite know what to do and simply restarts as a sort of slow waltz).
Then came the 21-minute EP I Have Tasted the Fire Inside Your Mouth (2004) marking the transition to pure doom-metal with a dark glitchy electronic drone from which slowly a giant guitar riff arises to become a deafening slow-motion panzer ride.
Truth Becomes Death (Alien8, 2005 - Conspiracy, 2008) paired two contrasting pieces: the relatively quiet Bug Golem (slow suspenseful crescendo and a catastrophe that is postponed and postponed, although clearly foretold by every single note) and the apocalyptic Memory Leak (an anthemic growling vocal melody wed to an organ raga a` la Terry Riley amid the usual percussive storm until everything falls apart).
Bodycage (Profound Lore, 2005) did not break new ground but refined the techniques. Clinodactyl is an artful demonstration of audio metabolism that leads from cataleptic threnody to majestic symphony. By Nadja's standards Autosomal is brief (ten minutes) but it is one of the most powerful pieces, a dense continuous flow of magma that picks up dissonant evil instincts and voodoo beats along the way. Ossification does not live up to these two gems: immersed in vast cosmic spaces, littered with radioactive debris, it eventually stages a half-hearted swirling crescendo.
Bliss Torn from Emptiness (2005) is a 53-minute piece (divided in three segments only for practical purposes). The first part (first track plus half of the second) creates vortexes and then lets them fly away, the thick texture evoking living beings on the run. Massive drumbeats are artfully injected in the landscape. Soon the scene turns to a sci-fi nightmare of cyborgs trampling over skyscrapers; and the violence keeps increasing, the pace speeding up. This harrowing movement disintegrates in the second part in which precious little happens for 20 minutes and then what happens is not exactly revolutionary (just the usual trivial crescendo of noise).
Radiance Of Shadows (Alien8, 2007 - Conspiracy, 2008), that also includes a new version of I Have Tasted The Fire Inside Your Mouth, completed the conversion to doom-shoegaze fusion. The two new monoliths, Now I Am Become Death The Destroyer Of Worlds, a crescendo of distorted mystical guitar drones and hypnotic elephant drumbeats, and Radiance Of Shadows, a suspended chaos of virulent drum-less guitar noise, do not hesitate to push the concept to its extreme consequences. Neither has a real development nor destination: they just reenact themselves eternally like a Zoroastrian fire.
Thaumogenesis (aRCHIVE, 2007) contains just one 62-minute lungubrious monster piece for bass, guitar and drum-machine a` la Sunno)). Gone is the visceral violence, the shock therapy, of previous droning juggernauts. The music has a more refined cosmic quality, at times borders on quasi neoclassical, and the distorted crescendo that marks so much of Nadja's art now evokes a majestic procession. There is a clear melody inside the massive guitar riff, driving the repetition and the progression, a fact that makes it sound "romantic" compared to the onslaughts of the past. By the end this gentler approach has become melancholy and agonizing, more like a plantation blues lament than a stoned rock groove; and the final explosion does not bode well at all, not an expression of ecstasy but rather one of panic.
The EP Guilted By The Sun (Elevation, 2007) introduced a new element: Guilted is a heavy gothic song that seems to die into a catatonic section but then stages a spectacular electronic resurrection.
In these works the logic of heavy metal (the heavy riffs) is wed to the logic of electronic soundsculpting (haunting background soundscapes).

12012291920/ 1414101 (Invada, 2007) and II - Points At Infinity (Profound Lore, 2008) were collaborations with British doom-metal band Atavist. We Have Departed The Circle Blissfully (Conspiracy, 2006) was a collaboration with Fear Falls Burning.

Trembled (Utech, 2006 - Utech, 2008) documents a live performance. Touched (Alien8, 2007) is a compilation of old material. Thaumoradiance (aRCHIVE, 2008 - Broken Spine, 2012) contains (bad) reworkings of Radiance Of Shadows and Thaumogenesis.

Unfortunately, Nadja released dozens of recordings of very mediocre material instead of releasing just one good album.

Baker's droning/ambient career, released under his own name, began with tentative works such as Letters (2002 - Basses Frequences, 2011), an ethereal psalm for guitars, cymbals and vocals, and Songs Of Flowers And Skin (2005 - Beta-Lactam Ring, 2010), a collection of slocore litanies. Oneiromancer (Die Stadt, 2006) is typical of this naive apprenticeship: Wake Up is musique concrete that eventually populates the empty dark space of marching zombies; Death Too Wrapped In Dream is electronic dance music for chill-out rooms; and Do You Remember Me (From Your Dreams) is a mix of the two, both sound effects and danceable beats. One piece stands out and points to the future: the 17-minute Betes Noires is a slow-morphing organism in a sterilized alien laboratory (chirping voices surround the drones), and the music creates suspense via meticulous studio production in a manner akin to Pink Floyd's Echoes.
Parts of Baker's Pendulum (Gears Of Sand, 2006), an abstract dronescape in five parts, are not trivial. Like many of Baker's compositions, the 17-minute Centre is a journey, a journey that exhibits extremely slow progress, materialized in an excruciatingly anemic shift in the tones and patterns of the drones: glitches appear, organisms start pulsating, sidereal hisses compete with wolf-like howls, metallic rattles, reverbed dripping, muffled moans and whimpers, metronomic clockworks, and all of this trapped inside a nerve-wracking sense of desolation. The ten-minute Everywhere invests in darker, more psychedelic drones with less movement. The 15-minute North patiently weaves its web of drones and then, equally patienty, undoes it.
But then the ambient recordings under Baker's name vastly exceeded Baker's musical gift: The Sea Swells A Bit (A Silent Place, 2006), Thoughtspan (Tosom, 2007 - Blackest Rainbow, 2009), Exoskeleton Heart (Crucial Bliss, 2007), Broken & Remade (Volubilis, 2007), Figures (Volubilis, 2007), Green & Gold (Gears Of Sand, 2007 - Beta-Lactum Ring, 2008), a detour into slocore ballads (with actual singing), I Will Always And Forever Hold You In My Heart And Mind (Small Doses, 2007), marred by post-rock infections, Orange (Thisquietarmy, 2007), a collaboration with Thisquietarmy, i.e. Eric Quach, An Open Letter To Franz Kafka (Laughing Bride Media, 2007) with Beta Cloud, i.e. Carl Pace (Baker on flute, Beta Cloud on trumpet, synth and guitar), Nagual (aRCHIVE, 2007) with Todd Merrell or Patrick Jordan, etc. Again, being prolific is not a good strategy for being great. Most of the music is a rather monotonous experience that requires a lot of patience (and tolerance for amateurish ideas).

The 50-minute symphony of Noise Of Silence (Hyperblasted, 2007 - Essence Music, 2011), however, is one of the best Baker's abstract soundscapes: a polished pulsating timbre, subterranean hisses, eerie whispers, sinewave of sharp bowl-like drones, more whispers that slowly turn into shouting and merge with infernal electronic sounds, explosions, a chaos of voices, and finally 18 minutes of very slow decay.

The 20-minute solo guitar improvisation Fragile Moments In Slow Motion (Universal Tongue, 2008) and the Live From The Rotunda (Philadelphia, PA, February 2007) (Gears Of Sand, 2008) continued Aidan Baker's drone-oriented program, while Scalpel (The Kora, 2008) seemed to open a new direction with its gentle folkish approach (the guitar sounding like a guitar and not like an alien moan). I Wish Too To Be Absorbed (Important, 2008) is a double-disc anthology of Aidan Baker rarities from 2000-07. Baker's Book of Nods (Beta-lactam Ring, 2008) sounded like a somnolent loop of syncopated jazzy patterns. Fantasma Parastasie (Alien8 Recordings, 2008) was a collaboration between Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker.

Magma To Ice (Fario, 2008), a split album with Netherworld, contains a 19-minute Nadja piece, one of the heaviest ever.

Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker split the next two Nadja albums: both Trinity (Die Stadt, 2008) and Trinitarian (Important, 2008) contain two compositions, one per composer.

Nadja's Desire In Uneasiness (Crucial Blast, 2008) added a real drummer and a Helios Creed-like space guitar, but each of the three monoliths du jour sounds overlong (Sign-Expressions, Uneasy Desire, Deterritorialization).

The highlights of Nadja's The Bungled And The Botched (Consouling Sounds, 2008) were, respectively, the flute and the piano used in each of its two sprawling compositions (The Bungled And The Botched and Absorbed In You).

Nadja's When I See The Sun Always Shines On TV (The End, 2009) is a very minor album of covers.

The amount of releases clearly took a (heavy) toll on the quality and originality (both rapidly tending towards zero). Reviewers of new Nadja or Baker releases started simply photocopying old reviews.

The split album Primitive North (Robotic Empire, 2009) contains Nadja's side-long I Make From Your Eyes The Sun, another "romantic" take on booming super-dense doom-gaze, but this time replete with angelic vocals.

Aidan Baker also formed the double-percussionist trio Arc, devoted to languid, abstract free-jazz jams a` la Necks (sometimes with chamber instruments) on Arc (Arcolepsy, 2000), Two (Arcolepsy, 2002), Repercussion (2002), The Circle Is Not Round (A Silent Place, 2005), Glassine 1 (A Silent Place, 2008), and Arkhangelsk (Epidemie, 2008).

The EP Live 2008-14-11 (Universal Tongue, 2009) documents a collaboration with drummer Brandon Valdivia. A Picture of A Picture (Killer Pimp, 2009) was a second collaboration with Thisquietarmy, i.e. Eric Quach. Colorful Disturbances (Divorce, 2009) was a collaboration with guitarist Noveller (Sarah Lipstate).

Baker's Gathering Blue (Equation, 2009) is a confused collection that runs the gamut from glitchy ambience to dance music.

The collaboration Nadja/ Black Boned Angel (20 Buck Spin, 2009) indulged in extremely violent sounds.

Belles Betes (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2009) was representative of the dead end that haunted Nadja at the end of the decade. If Beautiful Beast is the usual carpet-bombing of guitar distortions and drumbeats, and Wound Culture is the snail-pace doom nightmare du jour, there are real departures from the past. In particular, the celestial psalm of Machina, that arises out of elegant droning noise, and Chainsaw, that sounds like a remix of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man.

The double-disc Under The Jaguar Sun (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2009) offered a yin/yang good/evil vision of Nadja's work, with one disc ripping through the entrails of hell and the other disc exploring abstract ethereal soundscape.

When I See The Sun Always Shines On TV (The End, 2009) is a collection of covers.

Baker's Liminoid/ Lifeforms (Alien8, 2010) was unusually scored for eight musicians, adding the aesthetic of chamber music and post-rock to his ambient music, notably in the 30-minute Lifeform.

Nadja's Autopergamene (Essence Music, 2010) contains three lengthy jams, notably the 25-minute Your write your Name in my Skin. The 40-minute piece of their Ruins Of Morning (Substantia Innominata, 2010) was basically the shoegaze version of a melodic fantasia. White Nights/ Drone Fields (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2010) documents six hours of live Nadja performances.

Dominium Visurgis (Transgredient, 2010) documents an improvised collaboration between Nadja and German ensemble Troum, whereas The Life And Death Of A Wasp (Bar La Muerte, 2010) was a collaboration with Italian duo OvO, one of Nadja's most demented and dadaistic recordings.

Marking another change in direction, Baker's Lost In A Rat Maze (Consouling Sounds, 2011) is a collection of slow-motion lieder, whereas Only Stories (The Kora Records, 2011) is a solo acoustic record for guitar and vocals. His Pure Drone (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2011) documents a live performance. His Still Life (Primary-Numbers, 2011) contains four lengthy abstract pieces for piano, bass and drums that, again, evoke the ambient jazz style of the Necks (without their dexterity and inspiration).

Nadja's Sky Burial (Latitudes, 2011) contains two 19-minute suites, Jaguar and Sky Burial, that continue the progression towards a more ethereal and less magniloquent sound.

Transmit Acoustique Abstraction (Beta-Lactam Ring, 2011) was a split album with Armchair Migraine Journey to which Nadja contributed a convoluted sidelong composition.

Fool Redeemer (Broken Spine, 2011) was a collaboration between Nadja and Canadian outfit Picastro.

Aidan Baker and Josh Rothernberger launched Scythling and employed demonic vocalist Rebecca Fasanello and hammered dulcimer player Michael Tambouro for the lengthy psychedelic folk excursions of Smokefall (Aurora Borealis, 2012).

Baker's Closure Axioms (Miskatonic Soundlab, 2012) is an album of processed solo guitar.

Baker's double-disc 98-song The Spectrum Of Distraction (Robotic Empire, 2012) felt like an eclectic retrospective of rock music of the last few decades.

The double-disc Excision (Important, 2012) compiles Nadja material from 2007-2009, mostly originally on split albums.

Nadja's Dagdrom (Broken Spine, 2012) featured Jesus Lizard's drummer Mac McNeilly instead of the usual drum-machine imparting a more intense rhythmic undercurrent especially to the 14-minute Space Time and Absence .

Konstruktion (Adagio, 2013) was a collaboration between Nadja and Galena containing the 22-minute tribal synthscape High Sea & Turbulence / Coda 2.

Flipper (Oaken Palace, 2013) is yet another mediocre ethereal detour in Nadja's confused career.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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