A much edgier album than one might expect from the cover, East of Evening continues Ross Baker‘s slow metamorphosis from ambient artist to experimental. It’s possible the artist doesn’t even know how far afield he’s traveled.
Field recordings are once again prominent, especially those of birds, which should come as no surprise given the fact that the C30 is released on Baker’s own Bullfinch label and that a previous album was named The Blackbirds’ Revenge. In “Countryside Melody”, the flocks nearly reach the volume of those found in The Cure’s “Like Cockatoos”. A sense of summer heat is apparent in the insect sounds of “Day Returns to Night”. And while farm animals are absent this time, a likable dog makes a guest appearance on “Migeon”. Another link to prior recordings is a spoken word track, the Dickens- quoting “Wherein Certain Persons Are Presented to the Reader” from Martin Chuzzlewit. Baker’s voice continues to be in fine form, friendly and yet firm, commanding the listener’s attention while inviting interest. And yes, the piano and guitar are used in ambient fashion, with a little bit of reverb and a whole lot of texture. But the similarities to everyday ambient music end there.
Take for example the aforementioned “Wherein”. The track begins with a thick layer of dronelike fuzz, while Baker restricts his monologue to a single speaker. Piano notes cut through the fog, which sputters and swirls and finally breaks up like a disabled connection. “Meadow Toybox” contains an odd side pulse that makes one think a car is passing outside, booming bass. Strangest of all, “Ghosts Forge” winds and warps, reflecting its genesis as a song recorded to decaying tape. Baker calls this “nostalgic”, but we call it “foreboding”. The difference between what the artist may intend and what the listener may hear is important. Baker trespasses in dark ambience, but he doesn’t seem to notice; the signposts may be overgrown. The irony is that East of Evening is his best work yet. The cover may be inviting, but you might not want to be here after the sun goes down. (Richard Allen)