Aidan Baker and Claire Brentnall - Delirious Things

by Steve Rhodes Rating:7 Release Date:2017-01-27

Putting pretty much every other artist to shame, ambient and avant-garde connoisseur Aidan Baker's prolificness in releasing material borders on the manic, with a new release solo, in collaboration, or as a member of Nadja, averaging a couple of months apiece, so it's hardly surprising as 2016 is dispatched in favour of 2017 that a new album is already due. Joining forces with Shield Patterns' Claire Brentnall, who herself only released new material in the latter part of 2016, Delirious Things, doesn't stray too far from past material, with a collection of atmospheric tracks that are so relaxed they border on the docile at times.

The title track opens with light and fuzzy electric squelches, a simple drum machine pattern and a Come Undone Duran Duran 'underwater' guitar adding haunting notes, as Claire's opulent, multi-tracked vocal effortlessly wanders in. Perhaps a warmer and understated version of Shield Patterns. The song opens up with reverbed, guitar, bass and heavier (albeit still feint) drums appear, with the walls of feedback signposting early Lush and slight dub undertones adding depth to a fairly straightforward and blissful track.

'Dead Languages' takes a darker turn, with moodier, Gothic-tinged analogue synths commanding proceedings, adding a more cinematic feel, with Claire's angelic vocal effectively used as another instrument. The subtle drum machine programming, with a feel of Sarah Records, propels the song along allowing the mournful and atmospheric synths to take focus, akin to Dead Can Dance, Tales Of Murder And Dust or The Underground Youth. Only the length of the track is a weak point as seven minutes seems a bit too long to sustain a lack of real change in structure, tempo and momentum.

Peppered throughout the album are short instrumental interludes that take their lead from Aidan's solo work. 'Shivers' is atmospheric and deeply relaxing, with ambient keys doing all the work until a very gentle reverbed guitar appears from time to time. With elements of Johann Johannsson it doesn't exactly break down barriers, but it's still effective, like Talk Talk at their most detached or even a rival to Marconi Union's 'Weightless'. The whispered, or even mumbled, breathless vocal sounds backs haunting ambient soundscapes on 'Tongues'. Similar in vein to label-mate Anders Brorby with only the subtlest chord changes to keep the song moving. 'Wax' is even more vacant, with delicate background noises, including the sounds of insects at night, and deeply-buried Flying Saucer Attack guitar occasionally interrupted by a borderline-sinister carnival organ.

Though much of the album is spacious where the placing of notes and tones are key, the 'busier' tracks tend to stand out as the stronger numbers on the album. 'Always Leaving' has scuttling percussion and a rumbling but airy bass line that could have featured on This Mortal Coil's 'Kangaroo'. When a lo-fi 'plucking guitar and Claire's floating vocals appears the song strengthens its dynamics, culminating in a beautiful, serene track that echoes of New Zealand's prolific guitarist Roy Montgomery, especially with his Dadamah and Dissolve projects.

The highlight of the album is 'Wingless', with trickles of Piano Magic or Robin Guthrie in a straight-jacket, it is a delicately under-produced but more effective Dream Pop number, that is dominated, if that's the right use of word, by a tinny, shimmering guitar. With the vocals more audible and higher in the mix the song builds with increases in noise and texture, which get swirlier and dreamier as the track progresses. A glorious triumph that sounds like it could have made at any point in the last thirty years but still sounds refreshing.

With the fuzzy 'Shivering' closing proceedings, returning to similar ground of the opener, perhaps 'book-ending' the release, Aidan Baker and Claire Brentnall have produced an interesting album that adds new dimensions to both of their back catalogues. A journey of aural minimalism that will take the edge of any tense situation, Delirious Things is an uncomplicated record that cajoles the listener into peaceful tranquillity.

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