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Half Lives


Aidan Baker is a prolific multi-instrumentalist, classically trained in flute, but best known for his work as a guitarist, which falls within the ambient and experimental genres but draws on influences from shoegaze, post-rock, contemporary classical, and jazz. Since his debut in 2000, Baker has released numerous recorded works -- solo, with his duo Nadja, and with various other group projects on such labels as Alien8 Recordings, Important Records, and Drone Records, and has collaborated in studio and live with such artists as Tim Hecker, Carla Bozulich, Jessica Bailiff, Noveller, OvO, members of The Jesus Lizard, and members of Swans. Baker has toured extensively around the world, and has appeared at such festivals as Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, South by Southwest, Incubate, Unsound Festival, and MUTEK. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Baker currently resides in Berlin, Germany. Half Lives is his Gizeh Records follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 album Already Drowning (GZH 043CD). While that album was built around the guest vocals of female singers -- including Carla Bozulich, Jessica Bailiff, and Geneviève Castrée (Ô Paon) -- Half Lives comprises two separate but interconnected albums, and Baker's loose concept was that they would bridge the more abstract/experimental and song-oriented natures of his work. Both albums were recorded in August 2014 in Berlin and are the product of initial extended improvisations that were then arranged into coherent pieces -- "constructed" rather than "composed." In these senses, parallels can be made with artists such as Bark Psychosis, Low, and The For Carnation, for whom experimentation with texture and timbre has never been a reason to abandon the song form. Where the two discs of Half Lives differ is in their sonic palettes. Mountains Sweat Clouds is based on the electric guitar whereas As I Walked On Dead Earth features primarily acoustic guitar. However, any sense that this might provide an easy separator is quickly erased by Baker's supreme skills at arranging and layering his material, featuring extensive use of organ, synths, percussion, field recordings, and vocals. His curiously dispassionate yet emotional vocal is actually one of the strongest elements of the albums; conceived once the music was complete, it provides the thread along which the pieces flow. Taken together, the two albums that make up Half Lives are further evidence of Baker's expressive, shapeshifting sound.