[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
He has a penchant for melody, dissonance and his powerful arrangements remain undiminished by the passage of time. For the last decade, Keef Baker has been bringing his own demanding stylistic tendencies out to play -or was that prey- upon the expectations of ears across this world. His view of genres is irreverent to the point of insolence and I’m quite grateful for that. These beats are heavy, the bass reverberating around the inside of my skull like a series of explosive charges set to make reality implode. No, you’re not imagining this if you’ve heard his work, you know exactly how it hits.
These beauties on ‘Dry’ come out like the stars in a late evening sky. Gradually the light diminishes until you are in the midst of a symphonic overture; odes to the allure of silence and the thoughts which you alone possess inside that fragile shell of a skull. No one else is here, just one fellow who likes to indulge his muse regardless of the outcome. Alternating between ambient epics of sublime grandeur and a playful aside to a man and his love of football, there is an undeniable humanity and flawed beauty in what Keith does. ‘Dry’ is, for the most part, a wondrous collection dedicated to that most graceful of arts: humility. Acknowledging how infinitesimal one is in the scheme of things isn’t generally on the agenda of most artists, but Baker is no ordinary musician.
I’m certain this wasn’t an easy album to make, elements of what he’s done previously come through but with added depth and dynamics. For those of you who loved his last album and it’s attendant addendum ‘Light City’ believe me: plenty of that maniacal precision is in abundance on ‘Dry’ but there’s no unifying narrative to tie it all together. He batters away on some of this with a ferocious glee, blurring the lines between what people think he’s about and what he really does which is whatever the fuck he wants. I’ve read press releases about his albums and they cracked me up to no end, how do you summarize an artist who is everywhere all at once without ever making you lose interest. I’m sure as hell not going to try.
Now, unfortunately, ‘Dry’ is a bittersweet record because it is also the last he’ll be making under this name. Given his talent and ability, wherever he goes next won’t be easy to figure out. Keef is one of those composers who latches on to whatever sounds good and runs with it. Sometimes all you get are breaks with a few atmospheres thrown over the top while with others you couldn’t count all the layers and sounds if your life depended on it. He can even write ballads, as evinced by the two part masterpiece “Begin Again” which is a conversation he must have had with himself at some point. Intensity is pretty much the only constant to Keith’s work, he’s unabashed in his love of multiple styles pushed to their maximum in the span of a single song.
For those wondering why there’s been no mention of the appendix for ‘Dry’, don’t go getting the torches and pitchforks. There will be one next week which focuses on ‘Barren’ exclusively. This is just act one, what is on that second part is so massive and varied that it makes ‘Dry’ seem tame. Honest.