Aidan Baker & thisquietarmy: A Picture of a Picture
Envenomist: The Helix
Anyone expecting Nadja member Aidan Baker and Eric Quach (aka thisquietarmy and founding member of Destroyalldreamers) to indulge in ego-driven guitar dueling during this new Killer Pimp set will be disappointed—thankfully. Instead, this beautiful hour-long outing eschews grandstanding for nuanced axe sculpting of the foremost rank. It's not the first time the two have worked together: the Orange EP, issued in 2007 in a limited edition of 200 orange CDRs on Quach's own thisquietarmy imprint, was recorded by the duo separately with files exchanged through the post. For this first full-length collaboration, the duo opted to record it live and add few overdubs if any. After laying down the material at Quach's Montreal home studio in the fall of 2007, Baker finalized the mixes in his own studio a year later, with four long-form pieces the result.
A Picture of a Picture begins peacefully as if opening its eyes to the dawning day. In “Imagistic Continuity,” long, flowing tendrils unfurl beatifically and then slowly escalate in intensity until, six minutes in, the waves of guitar tones start to billow like clouds. The music's gaseous character extends on into track two, the ghostly and even more placid “Loss of Perspective,” before “Negative Space” flutters into position, its harp-like plucks soon giving way to steelier atmospheres. The storm hits after about eight minutes, with guitars breathing fire and the duo shooting howling shards in all directions while a lava-hot cauldron churns below. Calm follows in the twenty-one-minute closer “Horizon Line,” which is transporting in the best sense of the word. Immense masses of shimmering haze roll forth before slowly swelling into colossal, cyclonic structures at the center of which guitars wail in ecstasy. Needless to say, devotees of guitar-generated soundscaping should regard the release as required listening.
Columbus, Ohio-based David Reed issues material under his own name as well as Luasa Raelon and Envenomist. Under the latter, Reed works exclusively with analogue synthesizers to sculpt dark ambient settings that, at least in the case of The Helix, suggest lonely transmissions emanating from the farthest reaches of space. Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze are cited as reference points but the Envenomist sound is darker and rather more terrifying. Recorded over the fall and winter of 2007, The Helix aligns dissonant synthesizer chords burning as if on fire with humongous masses that shimmer and shudder by turn. Imagine the shock and awe the sole surviving member of a space crew might experience as the ship, incapable of returning to earth, travels ever deeper into the cosmos, and you'll have some idea of the sonic character of the five pieces Reed presents on this enhanced CD (also included are artwork by Reed and MP3s of “Apparition” and “Glacial Drift”). With gargantuan slabs and crushing drones colliding in slow motion, “Final Frontier” and “Bestowal” are as nightmarish as their titles suggest while “Gyres,” broiling and seething like some massive fireball, ratchets the intensity up a notch. All told, The Helix is stupefying, but in a good way.