Ross Baker ~ The Blackbirds’ Revenge

It’s always interesting to see where releases end up  – for example, this tape out of England being released by Jozik Records in Helsinki.  Jozik applies a loving touch to everything it releases, as demonstrated in the photograph on the left: handmade fabric pouches with inserts, produced in extremely small runs.  As far as talent is concerned, perhaps Finland knows something that England does not, as The Blackbirds’ Revenge is a fine rainy day release.

Baker describes this recording as a transitional piece, a “halfway house” between his past and future efforts.  This comes across as a bit of an apology, but it needn’t be read that way as this music is a showcase for a myriad of styles.  The birds, splashes and rail sounds of opener “The Slow Decay of Concrete and Glass” lead us to expect an ambient set, but it’s not all ambient; there’s a good deal of intentional composition included as well.  The rising organ tones at the end of the piece produce an intense sweetness.  On other tracks, the acoustic guitar holds court, exuding an Americana vibe, a folky vibrancy that feels authentic and warm.  The bells of “A Time Before Computers” sound like those on the door of a country luncheonette.  All that’s missing is a harmonica.  A brief vocal piece at the end of Side A introduces the title, but might have worked better as an instrumental – probably not a surprising sentence, coming from us.

If Wixel is looking for some new Slaapwel material, he might consider contacting Baker, as the side-long “Sleeping Music for People and Pigs” is an extended exercise in somnolent tones.  The crisp precipitation sounds of the opening minutes are soon joined by flowing ambient drones, which produce the their desired effect – although I can’t vouch for their effect on pigs.

It’s hard to say which direction Baker should head next.  His field recordings and clear instruments (guitar, piano, organ) are his strong suits, and they play together well.  The relaxing end of drone is very crowded right now, and singer-songwriters are even more plentiful.  Our recommendation is to follow the muse of the first five tracks, and to embrace the sounds of the unplugged country.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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