Sometimes an association is so powerful that it’s impossible to resist. When listening to The Bay, the mind is drawn to the documentary The Bridge, another work of art drawn from the dangerous waters of San Francisco. Each shares a slightly sinister vibe, but ends in hope. The mist and fog of The Bridge are akin to the oppressive opening of The Bay; the survivors’ stories of the former are matched by the focused ending of the latter.
The Bay developed as a friendly musical exchange between artists in Oakland and Brussels, but is devoid of national flavor. The set is comprised of two long tracks, simply labelled “Part 1” and “Part 2”. The first part emerges from shadow, only to descend into deeper shadow: the soothing sounds of the bay yield to a series of guitar drones and low bass hums. The nuances are extremely quiet and can easily be lost without headphones. Whenever a layer is added, the sense of weight increases, like the accrued worries of a troubled mind. When they begin to recede, giving way to the bay, they seem only momentarily submerged. A light chime in the last 90 seconds offers the hope of a buoy and bridges the transition to “Part 2”. This piece is lighter in tone, although still not light; it’s more like the dimly lit pre-dawn. The chimes lead to a long center of ambient drone, which meanders toward the light like a mischievous cat. In the final two minutes – a tenth of the track, a twentieth of the album – the sun finally rises, with bright flute intonations bearing the first appearance of melody. This is the album’s finest section, and while it works on an emotional level (after so much struggle, a gift), on a musical level it should have been expanded. Sometimes a little hope is all we can expect, but a single step back from the ledge is not as trustworthy as a pair of intervening arms. (Richard Allen)