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Aidan Baker & Thisquietarmy, "Orange"

Imagine there is a machine moving through space without any discernible origin, its shape and size are thoroughly alien to the human mind, and it is transmitting a series of communications as it ploughs through our solar system and back into deep space. Orange would be the recording of those communications.


I can't think of a project Aidan Baker has been involved in that is more spacious and alien than this. His work under the Nadja guise reminds me of metal, doom, and gloom more than anything else and my familiarity with his other projects brings to mind inner-space more than outer-space. He has always blurred the edges between conventional heaviness and the density of drone music, but on Orange Baker and Eric Quach allow their compositions to disseminate endlessly. There's a levity in these four songs that I don't often find associated with Baker and I have to assume that this is due to Quach's contributions, at least in part. The compositions are still chock full of textures and perpetually distorted instruments, but on Orange that approach to writing music is utilized to destroy consciousness, not cement it in layers of mud, earth, and steel.

With titles like "Agent" or "Clockwork," these tracks might be expected to exhibit some degree of violence, both being potential references to one form of brutality or another. Instead both hiss and moan by, glowing in phased and warped bits of synthesizer and majestically elongated guitar performances. I'm tempted to say that solos exist on some of these tracks, but I only mean to imply that there is some amount of conscious structuring happening alongside the seemingly improvised bits of formlessness that drift throughout each song. It is, in fact, easy to let some of these songs fade into the background. As they pulse along, they become mesmerizing and begin to seep into the walls and floors of the space in which they're manifested. Inevitably some rogue element will strive to be louder or more distinct than all the other parts at play; when that happens it's as though I'm being snapped out of a dream and I have to gather myself before continuing to listen to the record. Christy Romanick's photography is the perfect accompaniment to this phenomenon: her work is bold, but abstract enough to be seductive and hazy. Her photography suits this kind of music perfectly, highlighting the way the music can be both subliminal and overtly powerful.

This isn't ambience, though. It's too uncomfortable to be ambient. There are elements of terror on Orange, especially as the closing track, "Blood," comes to an end. I'm reminded of immense voids in its closing moments and some primal terror takes a seat in that memory; I can imagine looking around for some anchor, some point of sensibility and seeing nothing but blackness all around me as the song plays. When it ends in a snap that picture of the void doesn't go with it, but stays firm in my mind. So, despite working subconsciously at some points, Orange leaves a lasting impression. It will not win Baker any new fans over to his particular style of music, but it may leave current fans clamoring for a further collaboration between these two musicians. They have both clearly learned how to play with the minds of their audience.



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