Sapropelic Pycnic is the solo project of Kathleen Baird of Spires That In The Sunset Rise, and this debut release is quite a disc. See Sun Think Shadow is a suite of solo piano improvisations that reveal an impressive mastery of the instrument. Not stately and neoclassical but minimal, jumpy and fresh. Yellow vinyl on Perfect Wave.
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Of Spires In The Sunset non-fame, Kathleen Baird has created some of New Weird America’s most nuanced works, honing traditionalism into psychedelia and vice versa. In their most recent incarnation, ‘Beasts In the Garden’, the Spires duo made a record of motifs and droning segues for flute, alto sax and loooooooooooops -- at times it recalled Julia Holter’s surrealist chamber pop gardening on ‘Ekstasis’, and at others it sounded a lot like the soundtrack to a long lost video game like the Zombinis. On ‘See Sun Think Shadow’, Baird removes herself from the hallmarks of her band’s sound -- lushness, naturalism, deja vu -- and creates abrasive improvisations for piano.
Baird’s style is both meandering and harsh, though its sense of displacement is tethered by a comparatively generous repetition of motifs: after a jaunty and terse set of movements on “Current of the Kosmos”, “Water” sees separate melodies repeated in turn to slowly break down the piece for its listener. It sounds like lounge music created for panoramic viewing. “No Boundary” is comparatively rapid-fire, notes bursting out front and centre before Baird settles the piece into a juxtaposition of silence and busied melody.
It’s almost jarring hear Baird create an atmosphere this stripped back and dreamless, considering the density of Sunset’s music, but she’s able to make the piano her own: “Who Dies” sees a figure swirl in before being dramatically cut off at the edges, like chords falling off a cifff and then bungeeing back up. It’s rare that assembled improvisations can contribute to such a cohesive whole, but as Sapropelic Pycnic, Baird has proved herself a knowing whim-taker.
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