Aidan Baker w. Claire Brentnall: Delirious Things (Gizeh Records, 2017)

Aidan Baker w. Claire Brentnall: Delirious Things (Gizeh Records, 2017)

by Jason

Aidan Baker is a classically trained flutist and a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. He is a Canadian musician who currently resides in Germany. Baker is prolific and his music wide-ranging, but central to all his releases is a practice in deconstruction as he explores experimental sounds and tones based primarily, but not exclusively, in guitar. Brentnall, who joins Baker here on some tracks, provides vocals and is a member of the experimental duo Shield Patterns. On Delirious Things, Baker explores his ambient side, primarily with interludes, but his pieces with Brentnall evoke 80’s style dark-wave, post-punk, cold-wave, and shoegaze. The pair work as a wonderful duo, with Baker’s acumen at creating emotive soundscapes playing alongside Brentall’s angelic and otherworldly vocals.

The album opens with fuzzy tones and tapping drums. “Delirious Things” is slow and sparse, with an almost drone-like quality. Brentnall instantly mesmerizes with her vocals as she sings hypnotic lines over Baker’s guitar playing in your right ear. Another guitar enters the mix in the left as the bass plays in stereo. The mix gives it a brilliant depth and a sense of conversation between the instruments. Percussion has a thick layer of reverb as the fuzz still is the floor of the track. Backward tracking plays among the fuzz as the layers begin to peel away to leave a rather inorganic tone. “Interlude I (Shivers)” begins with a high-toned synth sound and various bright layers that dance around it in variations. It is brief but beautiful piece. “Dead Languages” begins with more reversed tones and a humming line floating above them. Electronic drums kick and dark, fuzzy tones come into the speakers creating a dark-wave mood. Brentnall’s ethereal vocals are given a different feel in this darker space. They are angelic but are almost dissonant against the march of a moodier background. The darkness of it all is unrelenting and Brentnall’s vocals a constant force of light throughout.

“Interlude II (Tongues)” has an almost eerie voice floating around in it with backward tones over a bright drone. The voice moves from speaker to speaker and comes into the mix at different volumes. There are shimmering tones, almost like a drop falling into water and then creating a ripple effect. Slight fuzz rumbles underneath but never quite makes it above the surface. “Interlude II (Tongues)” flows into “Wingless” without pause. Swirling synth rises to create a very subtle wall of sound and then the percussion and guitar kicks in. This track feels most like post-punk 80’s music, with a Siouxsie Sioux meets Cocteau Twins vibe. Brentnall’s vocals create an almost desperate feel or at least one of earnest longing. The bass work provides a consistent backbone which also has an almost Hooky/Gallup feel. Eventually, the keys soar and begin to bury Brentnall under a swell and then the synths play out as a drone, winding down into an osculating tone. “Interlude III (Wax)” brings fuzz back into prominence, but the guitar work is bright and the fuzz no long ominous in any way. If Baker proves anything, it’s that he can take tones, place them in other contexts, and then completely redefine how they feel. Warm, deep rumbles flutter in and out of the speakers, creating and immersive experience.

“Always Leaving” has a slightly reverbed bass playing at first, repeating a singular note. Electronic drums bring in that 80’s feel and the bass line then becomes more expressive and complex. There is a Roxy Music vibe floating around in this piece that is just exquisite. About 3 minutes in, Brentnall’s vocals come leaping forth and they are the most prominent they are on the whole album. Baker clearly knows how to mix vocals because they move in and out of speakers as Brentnall sings various pieces simultaneously as if in conversation, echoing one another here and there. It creates a pleasing array of angelic, ethereal vocals that blend together to create a choral feel. As the title suggests, there is a longing here and perhaps a sense of loss in both the vocals and the feel of the composition. “Shivering” is the finale to Delirious Things and it begins with a bright, aggressive fuzz that has several layers to it. A comforting hum floats among the prickly sounds and sparse percussion punctuates the soundscape. The track begins to take form and then moves back into buzzing drone territory as it pauses before resuming and Brentnall begins to sing. The pace of the piece is medium tempo but there is an urgency to it as the vocals swell and move up and down in volume. “Shivering” reaches its outro as synths hum, buzz, and crackle until there is silence.

The duo of Baker and Brentnall is one made in heaven. After spending many hours with Delirious Things, my hope is that there will be much more of this collaboration to follow. Baker’s compositions move from ambient brilliance to dark-wave decadence, changing the backdrop to Brentnall’s angelic, ethereal, and otherworldly vocals throughout. Context, if anything, proves to shape the feel of her vocals here and Baker is a master composer, giving Brentnall a myriad of spaces in which to interpret her vocal prowess. Delirious Things is a gorgeous album demonstrating Baker’s compositional expertise and Brentnall’s ability to evoke deep, emotional moments with her captivating voice.


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