Aidan Baker

At the Base of the Mind Is Coiled a Serpent

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Aidan Baker released nine solo albums and EPs in 2004, a staggering number that betters his 2003 score by one. Of course, discographies are no races, but a release schedule like that is punishing for the collector. At the Base of the Mind Is Coiled a Serpent came out in late 2004 on the small French label Le Cri de la Harpe. This is a professionally manufactured CD (not a CD-R), and the album is not advertised as a limited-edition release, which makes it a short-list pick if you consider digging into Baker's oeuvre. This is an electric guitar-only opus -- no poetry, no guest musicians, no extra instruments (played or sampled). The source material is taken from a live performance in Baker's hometown of Toronto, in April of 2003. The recordings were later manipulated and "restructured" into the five ten-plus-minute pieces presented here. As usual, the music evolves gradually through additions and subtractions of layers of guitar loops ranging from shapeless growls and pulsing waves to soaring volume-pedaled melodies. Sound quality is in Baker's better average, although tape (or amplifier) hiss can still be heard in the quieter moments, such as the end of "Endionrra" and most of "Esken." "Khiondhecwi" ranks as one of the guitarist's very strong pieces: it has atmosphere and soul. "Endionrra" provides the most rhythmic moments, gradually edging toward something almost dancefloor-friendly -- as close Baker gets to house music with his solo guitar set-up. At the Base of the Mind Is Coiled a Serpent is an elegant release that fans of Baker will surely find pleasing, and it can also offer a nice starting point for the newcomer. Just don't expect anything new or surprising if you are already acquainted with his work.

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