It begins with something that could be the sound of DNA gently floating in a mitochondrial soup, and ends with an ambient texture piece with lyrics culled from a particularly dense passage from Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” In between lies an intriguing exploration of worlds of tactile sensualism (a topographic map of the skin, as it were) and a deeper look at the inner forces and powerful unseen drives that lurk below. It’s a dense and prickly world created on I Fall Into You, by Canadian guitarist, loopist, and lyricist Aidan Baker (he’s also worked as a writer of poetry and fiction, and his works in the written word deal with similar inner concerns of language, sensuality and the darker side of the psyche).
The highlight of the whole disc is the mesmerizing two-guitar gamelan of “Symbiosis,” a place where wafting, repetitive guitars merge with gently tumescent drumlike sounds until no instrument is truly distinct throughout its 10 ambient minutes. The centerpiece of the five-song disc is the nearly 25-minute “Lysis,” which opens with vocalist Naomi Okabe blankly intoning the phrase, “I fall into you and replicate.” There’s some significance to this multi-layered, seemingly inscrutable lyrical phrase – indeed the lyric itself can be seen as a tool to describe Baker’s music. It can even take on different possible meanings with each different listen: the sense one makes of the phrase on the fourth time through the CD can be significantly different from the first time, or the fifth. It’s an ambiguity that hangs, that changes and morphs, much like the music itself in all five of these pieces. The title phrase resurfaces again later, during “Phage”, a one-minute spoken-word piece that oddly enough recalls the Velvet Undergound’s “Lady Godiva’s Operation,” with two completely different sets of words happening simultaneously in either speaker.
Those who wish to carp might point out that Baker maps out similar terrain as others before, such as Michael Brook, Biota, or even Brian Eno. But the important thing to remember is a lesson that Brian Eno himself explicitly set forth: the beauty and strength of any ambient or instrumental music lies precisely in its alien quality of strangeness and unfamiliarity, its inherent newness to the ears, an experience much like looking at a topographic map of an unfamiliar place, or viewing up-close surface photographs of distant planets that have been beamed to us from faraway spacecraft. There are colossal canyons you’ve never seen before, unexpected meteorology lighting the skies, and even boring desert vistas that cry out in utter plainness, but even the plainest desert contains an unexplainable beauty just for being so different and unfamiliar. In that sense, I Fall Into You is all about exploring the cartography of an uncharted place: looking around, searching for recognition, or even surrendering to one’s surroundings and just taking it all in.
The fact that Baker has done so much with far fewer resources (4-track, sparse equipment, one month of recording) than any of his immediate reference points is in itself a victory for ambient music’s inherent Everyman quality. But what’s even more impressive, is the fact that Aidan Baker is presenting us with ambient instrumental music that isn’t just a map of some exotic fictional Roger Dean-type planetscape, but a view of the darkest parts of the human interior itself.
By Dusted Magazine