Aidan Baker – Engenderine

Posted: 9 May 2023 in Albums
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Midira Records – 5th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker is one of those artists whose output is almost impossible to keep pace with – but the more remarkable thing is that for all of this hyperproductivity, the standard of work is of an unstinting quality. Recorded between 2020 and 2022, Engenderine – a double CD – lands almost simultaneously with Trio Not Trio, the first in a series of five albums on Gizeh Records, and just as Baker is gearing up for a tour with Nadja, the ‘ambient doom / dreamsludge, / metalgaze’ duo he is one half of.

To pause for breath for a moment, it’s worth stepping back and running through the context of this, which is worth quoting:

‘The neologism ‘engenderine’ comes from Lydia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan, a futuristic/dystopian/cli-fi retelling of the Joan of Arc story, and describes beings partially composed of pure energy capable of manipulating matter who, amongst a largely devolved human population, might be considered post-gender and a new evolutionary step.

‘Other song titles come from phrases and images from Tricia Sullivan’s duology Double Vision and Sound Mind, surrealistic fantasies about the nature of reality and perception and, like The Book of Joan, the possibilities of manipulating those.

‘Musically, the songs on Engenderine began as a series of slowly evolving ambient guitar loops – a bed layer of reality, so to speak – over which were layered bass, drums, and organ parts. These instrumental additions – the trappings of perception, signifiers, metaphorically speaking, our attempts to codify perception – incorporate traditional rock structures and progressions but are stripped down to a sort of somnambulant minimalism that might encourage introspection, a meditative background, uneasy listening, as much as they demand attention.’

It really is extremely uneasy listening. It’s perhaps as well it is, for the larger part, ‘background’, because the two CDs, while only containing eight tracks in all, span almost ninety minutes. We’re not quite in Sunn O))) or latter-day Swans territory, but still…

The first track, ‘Baby Dragon Slaughter’ pitches a long, unchanging organ drone note against a growling doom guitar and stop-start percussion which crashes hard. It’s hypnotic, paralysing, and I can imagine some might toss in a Doors comparison, but that’s only on account of the organ and the slightly trippy vibe, because it’s not only nothing like The Doors, but infinitely better.

If you want comparisons – because pretty much everyone seems to work on the premise that everything sounds like something else and recommendations – mostly algorithmic and based on purchases or streams, depending on the platform, Engenderine sits in the low, slow, doom-drone bracket of Sunn O))) and Earth 2. And this is indeed some ultra-low frequency shit. The first track on Disc 2, ‘Resurrection of the Child Army’ features some melodic, trilling pipe sounds around seven minutes into its nine-and-three-quarter-minutes gloomy, thick humming drone, is something you feel as much as you hear, and it resonates through the intestines and vibrates eternally.

The bass on ‘Calabi Yau Manifestations’ is pure dub, floor-shakingly dense, dark, minimal but quiveringly heavy, and it dominates the erratic drum clatters and rumbling roar of a drone that sounds like a jet engine warming up several miles away. Having experienced jet engines nearby, trust me., this is a good thing, but the rumble is unsettling. And then there’s ‘Dorvay’, which seems to take its cues from The Cure circa Pornography, with its hefty percussion dominating the sound.

Engenderine isn’t an album for a track-by-track, blow-by-blow critique: the tracks melt into one another and it’s an album that needs to be experienced as an album – and in context, that’s a continuous droning hum of murky noise without any clear sense of shape or form.

The second disc feels lower, slower, darker and more difficult: the erratic jazz drum-work on ‘Fear Sculptures’ is difficult to digest and assimilate – but then again, so is Engenderine as a whole. It’s just so much dark and difficult droning to chew on that it leaves you feeling low on energy, sapped, physically and mentally. But this isn’t about entertainment, and artistically, Engenderine is an outstanding exploratory / concept work.



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