Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Aidan Baker and Gareth Davis – Invisible Cities II (Karlrecords, 2020) ****
By Nick Ostrum
As his second release of the year, Davis collaborated with experimental doom guitarist Aidan Baker (Nadja, et al.) Unsurprisingly, this sounds more like Davis’ dark post-rock/dark ambient work with A-Sun Amissa and Baker’s work with Nadja than it does the Akita-Davis collaboration presented yesterday. In fact, this sounds somewhat airier, though no less eerie, than Nadja. Already, this description may be the question of whether this album belongs on FJB. In its melodicism and experimental impulses, absolutely. In its contrast to the unrelenting sonic fusillades of Merzbow, even more so.
Allow me to posit two propositions. First, Broken Landscapes excavates an aural panorama of postindustrial wreckage with the effect of turning this imagined future (or, possibly, experienced present) of the dialectical effects of humanity’s futile attempts to truly segregate, classify, and subjugate nature (crassly repurposed from Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment). Second, Invisible Cities II can therefore be seen as a complementary effort to chart the ghosts of what remains in that decayed scenery, viewed, albeit, through a more thoroughly anthropocentric lens. The mood is more subdued, but also more foreboding. Davis’s bass clarinet breaks through the haze, adding slow, flat, funereal melodies reminiscent of a ship’s horn in a dense murk. Sounds of waves, ghostly hums and rings, and radio static flesh out the music and lend the music an eerie, dreamy atmospherics. Then, with barely perceptible development, the music brightens (that is, in the way that Sunn O)))’s recent releases are somewhat “brighter” than their previous releases). To the extent that this type of atmospheric music, which still has some sort of directionality, can be separated from the soundscapes that seem to aimlessly explore terrain in any and every direction (though there is some of that, here, too), this is the some of the best churning ambient music I have encountered in a long time. Aidan Baker lays some fine and intricate sonic gossamer. Davis, for his part, takes the helm, anchoring the music in sounds discernibly human and hymnic while steering through the listener through Baker’s not-too-futuristic, adumbral abyss.
Invisible Cities II is available in LP and digital formats.
Yeah, I seriously like this album and find myself returning to it a lot. Your phrase "still has some sort of directionality, can be separated from the soundscapes that seem to aimlessly explore terrain in any and every direction" really sums it up nicely. Also the Sunn O))) comment cracked me up.
Do you know if Davis has done any recording that's closer to jazz in the more traditional sense?
Thanks for the review.
I really like this music, I have set my ringtones to be this type.
I laughed, too, when I read that interview with Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson. That said, afterwards, I could not get that idea out of my head and I swear I can hear it in Kannon.
Regarding Davis, I am not sure. I know he has recorded with Elliot Sharp, but I am not sure of the context and Sharp, of course, is all over the map. If he has, however, I would be curious to hear it.
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