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Bavaria: We'll Take a Dive

Though it might seem at first a questionable proposition, it's hard not to hear parallels between Bavaria and a prog-rock outfit such as Renaissance, which, while still active today, hit its peak in the ‘70s with the release of the albums Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade and Other Stories. Close your eyes as you listen to Bavaria's vocalist Kimi Recor (on the second track “Everywhere,” for example) and the similarities between her and Annie Haslam come into clear focus, and instrumentally the synth-dominated settings produced by John Tejada aren't all that far removed from Renaissance's prog stylings. The materials might be upgraded in Bavaria but frankly the style isn't all that much different—not that that's a bad thing if you're a long-time prog devotee.

But while it's fascinating to hear how prog-like the songs are, there are key differences between Bavaria's music and a typical ‘70s prog outfit: Bavaria traffics in songs of three- to four-minute lengths (as opposed to side-long epics) and the instrumentation used is modest rather than bombastic—no symphony orchestras, in other words, inhabit Bavaria's synthetic spaces. The duo deliberately chose to limit the album's sound palette to vocals and modular synth programming in order to reap the maximum benefits from minimal means and not clutter the group sound with superfluous layers of drums and guitars.

As a well-respected producer, musician, and Palette Recordings head, Tejada's a well-known quantity, of course, while Recor has lent her vocal talents to a number of projects over the years and currently is involved in her solo project Draemings. The album material is cleanly split between Tejada and Recor with the former writing and producing the music and the latter credited with singing and lyrics. Theirs is not an entirely new pooling of talents, by the way, as the two have worked together on each other's releases before with Recor first having appeared with Tejada on Logic Memory Center, his 2004 album for Plug Research. As the years passed and their paths repeatedly crossed, it began to seem only natural to formalize their working relationship, resulting in Bavaria's birth.

Certainly “We Break Through” memorably inaugurates the forty-four-minute album in the way Recor gets maximum mileage out of the song's vocal melodies (the title hook especially) and how effectively Tejada exploits the sound potential of his synthetic gear to generate a multi-tiered wash of staccato patterns and percussive effects. He accomplishes something similar in other pieces (e.g., “Delicate Destroyer”) by using modular synth programming to generate a dense, funky web of burbling synth patterns, skeletal beats, and bass lines. Strip away Recor's voice from “Persephone” and you'd be left with an instrumental presentation arresting enough on its own terms. Of course, it's her singing that humanizes the material and warms the coolness of the synth textures in a song such as “Morning Blue,” and her vocal delivery, here and elsewhere, proves so entrancing the music begins to assume a narcoticizing effect.

There are moments, however, where a greater degree of emotional abandon in her singing wouldn't have been unwelcome. A cool reserve attends her singing in “Silent Memory,” for example, in a way that prevents the song from hitting its emotional target with as much force as it might have. In “Made of Light,” on the other hand, Recor's reserve matches the song perfectly. But it's a minor complaint—nit-picking, even—given the multiple pleasures the album provides, and We'll Take a Dive ultimately impresses as a bold new step in Tejada's recording career.

February 2014