(Eilean Rec., 2014)
So I guess Arcade Fire is a cover band now, which has nothing to do with BMRN, but bear with me on this digression. They keep popping up in news feeds as having performed songs by artists as disparate as Huey Lewis and the News, Nirvana, Dead Kennedys, Feist, and Jane’s Addiction, and they even pulled out “Axel F” from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Honestly, I was sick of Arcade Fire already – but now they’ve started ruining a small part of almost every day for me, and enough is enough.
This is where BMRN comes in. “Boomruin,” as the UK’s Greg Baird used to be called (and I’m assuming is how you pronounce BMRN, rather than “bee, em, arr, en”), doesn’t record music that sounds even remotely like the Arcade Fire’s, and this is partly what makes me like what he’s doing on his Eilean Rec. debut, the poetically metered Immersion / Drift / Accretion / Shift. But that’s damning with faint praise, because anything is better than Arcade Fire’s recent output.
OK, I’m done there! Baird’s got a stranglehold on experimental electronic music, and my initial pleasant surprise upon hearing the album gradually increased to enraptured joy as it progressed. See, I’ve heard a lot of what constitutes the fringes of the ambient electronic scene, and anybody with a Bandcamp or a Soundcloud page can do drone or ambient or whatever if they’ve got a laptop handy. But what sets this BMRN release apart is the exquisite way the different flavors within these styles are blended together seamlessly to transcend each other as soon as the next one appears. Immersion keeps me guessing at all times. There’s more spark in a second of Greg Baird’s ambient textures than there is in any moment of The Suburbs, and this isn’t even counting the more beat-oriented tracks! (Seriously, I’m done now.)
Immersion can be easily labeled electronic or ambient, but there’s way more to it than that. It begins on a gorgeous tone progression, a minimal mood-setter called “intro (fàilte dhachaidh)” (Gaelic for “intro [welcome home]”), and it lasts less than a minute, but it’s a perfect way to start a record – unassumingly, and with the sense that what follows will arc like a story told without words. It moves into “family & drum machines,” which also begins with an exploration of moody tone, but, as the title suggests, a rhythm track emerges and adds a dose of IDM. It’s still fairly minimal, but Baird is able to wring great amounts of atmosphere from the limited palette. Speaking of, the short “some places I can’t shake” is as haunting as the title suggests, a minimal … drift? … through memory, with found sounds accentuating the notes. I can’t shake it either.
Later, “a natural history” is reminiscent of Photophob’s more low-key work (think About the Living Things) and “moss covered technology” envisions a world where, hey, outdated tech litters the ground and nature has retaken the earth, obviously. (Personally, that can’t happen soon enough.) But “Shoreline Flights” is the highlight near the end of the album, as it sprawls, full of found sound, in ambient splendor, its titular location shrouded in nocturnal wonder. Now this is one of those places I can’t shake, and I haven’t even been there!
The album’s cover reflects the eerie sense of ambience and also the sense that things aren’t what they seem, as what appears initially like a reversed photograph (or artist’s rendering) of the sun on a desolate landscape reveals upon closer inspection the possibility that it’s a close-up of a spider web in an icy climate. Either way, it’s gorgeous, subtle and quietly moving, like the rest of Immersion / Drift / Accretion / Shift. But subtlety doesn’t get you page views or sells concert tickets. Maybe if Baird started covering “edgy” hits from the 1980s and 1990s he’d get more recoginition. Then again, maybe I’d throw up in my mouth a little and return to Immersion if he did.
RIYL: Vhr-1.7, Repetition/Distract, Monopole, Oval, Photophob