Aidan Baker – Within The Final Circle
One of the many releases from the incredibly prolific Aidan Baker, “Within The Final Circle” is one of several net releases from Baker that explores the periphery of ambience, dark ambience, electronica, and sound collage. In addition to the electronic soundscapes, this release also contains guitar, flute, and violin accompaniments, also all played by Baker. While the price of the album may not give clues as to it’s quality (as it is a free net-release from the experimental electronica label Mirakelmusik), “Within The Final Circle” is a rewarding and contemplative experience to listen to.
“Shadow of Death / Dream On” is, appropriately, a long-form ambient excursion. Featuring several different electronic drones slowly pulsating with and against each other, it also has a prominent rhythmic pulse as well, which can be best described as a synthetic helicopter blade rotating in slow motion. Thus, this gives the interesting effect of the music being performed underwater: effortlessly floating yet progressing very slowly. A robotic voice appears occasionally, exhorting the listener to “…dream on…”, though such prompting is probably not necessary (especially if you are actually close to sleep when you listen to the song).
“Godwound” begins with several distorted vocal samples, followed by a gentle and serene guitar melody. A short time later, violin and an additional guitar line slowly make there way into the procession. The vocal samples themselves are somewhat unsettling, as a middle-age woman calmly recounts an experience in which she physically “felt Christ’s scars”. Halfway into the song, an enchanting flute drone makes itself apparent (being closer to the front of the mix on this song than the preceding song) as the drones become increasingly dense and strange metallic hums creep up towards the end of the song (with an unexpected high-pitch solo shortly before the twelfth minute). Much like “Shadow of death…”, this track is a beautiful collection of soundscapes (although the emphasis here on this song is more in the melody, with the first track being more atmospheric in nature). Otherwordly and yet somehow still suggestive of foreign lands and places, the intricate orchestration and instrumentation of this track overcomes the slightly lo-fi nature of the vocal samples. A strange mechanical whirring eventually makes way into…
“There is no out of here…”. In one of the most powerful moments in this album, the following conversation can be heard:
Evil Doctor: Where do you want to go?
Jacob Singer: Home.
Evil Doctor: Home? This is your home. You’re dead.
Jacob Singer: Dead? No. I just hurt my back, I’m not dead.
Evil Doctor: What are you, then?
Jacob Singer: I’m alive.
Evil Doctor: Then what are you doing here?
Jacob Singer: I don’t know.
Jacob Singer: Something’s happening.
Evil Doctor: What IS happening?
Jacob Singer: Get me out of here.
Evil Doctor: There is no out of here. You’ve been killed, don’t you remember?
(EDIT : Taken from the quotes section of IMDB page).
As the above-listed conversation introduces the final song, a darkened stereo drone phases in and out slowly. As the samples begin to pile up on top of each other in a claustrophobic manner (mimicking the desperation and despair of the second speaker), menacing electrical buzzes surge forth, like an over driven power generator or a malfunctioning neon fixture. This stands in sharp contrast with the previous track’s somewhat gentle benevolence; “There is no out of here…” is grim, rumbling dark ambience awash with strange metallic clinking and clanking, industrial stereo waves, and exponentially multiplying samples. Halfway into the song, a single synth-choir drone struggles to make itself heard, as it is almost buried in the oppressive collection of preexisting sounds. Eventually, the various layers slowly fade away, as if the very electricity running them suddenly ran dry, providing an excellent ending.
Most of Aidan Baker’s releases are noteworthy in one way or another, but this release is special even among his discography, and not only for the simple fact that it is free. Technically, one could say that this is a ‘minimalistic’ recording, but Baker uses the limited palette of sounds on this album to maximum effect. Beautiful, alluring, and foreboding, “Within the final circle” is an exemplary dark ambient/experimental album (especially if you ignore the somewhat simplistic cover art).
PS As noted by “adn”, samples are from Jacob’s Ladder and the documentary “Gambling, God, and LSD”. Thanks again. 🙂