Invisible Cities

Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis

Aidan Baker – guitar, pedals, effects
Gareth Davis – bass clarinet, field recordings

LP on Karlrecords, released January 2018

1A – Memory
1B – Sky
2A – Signs
2B – Desire

Recorded and mixed by Gareth Davis at Muziekhuis, Utrecht, NL
Artwork by Aidan Baker


“Invisible Cities”, the first collaboration between AIDAN BAKER (NADJA, B/B/S) and bass clarinetist GARETH DAVIS (OISEAUX-TEMPÊTE), offers finest ambient / chamber jazz / subtle drones of a highly meditative quality.

Be it solo, as member of the drone duo NADJA or B/B/S (his trio with ANDREA BELFI and ERIK SKODVIN / SVARTE GREINER) or in various collaborations with artists like TIM HECKER or THISQUIETARMY: the Berlin-based Canadian is one of the most productive and versatile artists when it’s about postrock, drone or ambient and without doubt a true master on his instrument, the guitar. In recent years BAKER also started exploring new grounds as a composer of contemporary / ensemble music – e.g. his composition “An Instance Of Rising” was commissioned by SPÓŁDZIELNIA MUZYCZNA CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE and SACRUM PROFANUM FESTIVAL for their 2017 edition. “Invisible Cities” marks BAKER’s first collaboration with GARETH DAVIS whose eclectic oeuvre spans contemporary classical, free improvisation and orchestral music through to rock, noise and electronica. The bass clarinetist is a steady member of the critically acclaimed post-rock formation OISEAUX-TEMPÊTE and A-SUN AMISSA, interpreted compositions by ALVIN LUCIER with MACHINEFABRIEK, worked with BERNHARD LANG and PETER ABLINGER, performed with musicians like NY Downtown veteran ELLIOTT SHARP, MERZBOW or ROBIN RIMBAUD (aka SCANNER) and realized multimedia work with artists including CHRISTIAN MARCLAY and PETER GREENAWAY.

Recorded in November 2016 at MUZIEKHUIS, Utrecht, the four tracks create a calm, even meditative atmosphere in their reduced manner that gives much room to the individual instruments / sounds, occasionally spiced up by field recordings that intensify the overall chamber jazz / ambient moods.


A Closer Listen
Aidan Baker & Gareth Davis have been known to make a great racket in their respective (and multiple) bands, but don’t expect that here. Invisible Cities is an album of coiled restraint that seems ever on the brink of eruption. In the end, their music neither explodes nor implodes; the tension remains even after the last clarinet note has faded and the final drone has crumpled to the earth.

The track and album titles are inspired by Italo Calvino’s fantastical 1972 novel of the same name. The surface plot is simple: a young Marco Polo regales an old Kublai Khan on his many adventures, describing city after city: cities dreamt of and cities remembered. Some literary critics propose that Polo is describing only Venice, from different angles. But as with all of Calvino’s works, the prose is the draw: dynamic, drifting, delirious prose.

Cities light as kites appear, pierced cities like laces, cities transparent as mosquito netting, cities like leaves’ veins, cities lined like a hand’s palm, filigree cities to be seen through their opaque and fictitious thickness.

Imitating the book’s ideas, the artists present chapters on Memory, Sky, Signs and Desire. “Signs” sounds the most like a city, with motorbikes and people mulling around. The conversation is muted, fragmented, dispersed. Davis attempts a pas de deux with the motorist, who travels speaker to speaker as if to toy with the clarinet. To no avail ~ here, the musician always wins. In “Memory”, horns blare quietly while trains pass gingerly. These are people recorded in a real city or cities, now living in an imaginary city that may be more real due to its fixed aural nature. How might Polo describe the experience?

There is a city in which images are only apparent through sound. Voices are only heard when music is playing; without notes, silent mouths form vacant words. The ground is comprised of layers, first ambience, then dirt, then cloud. One must tread lightly in order to keep from falling through. Nothing can be taken from the city; what is lifted for examination dissolves in the palm.

Much of the music is lonesome and forlorn. The notes are infrequent, often tailing off or melting into other notes. By respecting each other’s space, the artists build an atmosphere of even greater space, an endless horizon atop which anything might be built. Only in the very end does the volume grow, a slow urgency rising to just under a boil. Will we believe these stories? Or are we meant to hear a deeper truth buried in the ley lines, a map beneath the sheet music written in folds and stains?

What is seen is not made out of what is visible. ~ Hebrews 11:3, NIV

Richard Allen

Dark Entries
Het muzikale avontuur van multi-instrumentalist Aidan Baker (Nadja, Adoran, Caudal) is er één met vele tussenstops en omzwervingen. Door de jaren heen leidde dat tot talloze projecten, zowel in groepsverband als in duo of trio bezetting en als solo artiest. Op deze ‘Invisible Cities’ werkt Baker voor het eerst samen met klarinettist Gareth Davis (Oiseaux-Tempête, The Whalers Collective, A-Sun Amissa). Ook die laatste kan al terugblikken op een uitgebreid oeuvre van meer dan twintig releases waaronder een hele resem samenwerkingsverbanden. Aidan wordt aanzien als een meester als het gaat over genres als ambient, drone en postrock. Meer recent legt hij zich ook toe op het componeren van eigentijdse muziek voor ensembles. Gareth is op zijn beurt bekend in het veld van hedendaags klassiek, vrije improvisatie en orkest muziek, maar voelt zich ook thuis in rock, noise en elektronische muziek. ‘Invisible Cities’ beslaat vier sfeerrijke, instrumentale tracks, elk met een eigen specifieke klankkleur. Het tweetal creëert een parallelle wereld opgebouwd uit subtiele en breekbare klanken. Het geheel is een experimenteel palet van ambient, jazz, drone en kamermuziek, sporadisch verrijkt met veldopnames. Ondanks het minimalistische en meditatieve karakter is ‘Invisible Cities’ een intens en virulent album. Of het bij deze ene plaat blijft zal de toekomst moeten uitwijzen.

Paul Van de Gehuchte