Matteah Baim: Death of the Sun

By: Dennis Cook

This is a diving bell into the psyche's depths, a mercury slide - quick, dangerous and slippery – yet still solid, metallic, formidable. Like holding a glass up to the wall of someone's subconscious, the listener strains to discern details even as a somnambulant haze creeps into them. Awake and still, Matteah Baim's liquid musings draw us down before lifting us up.

Death of the Sun (DiCristina) is Baim's debut release after 2006's well-regarded Metallic Falcons project with CocoRosie's Sierra Casady, Desert Doughnuts. Collaborators this time out include Jana Hunter, Devendra Banhart and Pit er Pat's Rob Doran. There's no info about what anyone played, just a list of mostly unfamiliar names, which suits the music fine. There's a pleasantly amorphous feel to Death where part of the pleasure is not knowing what's making a certain noise. When instruments do fully unveil themselves the effect is striking - bright, tumbling guitar jostles against tintinnabulous piano like Jesu making out with George Winston along the banks of a slow trickling waterfall.

Opener "River" recalls the amazing Terry Reid album of the same name but given a cobalt, feminine shiver. Baim revisions folk staple "Michael Row" (as in "…the boat ashore") into ghostly gospel goodness full of sighed hallelujahs. Each cut is a tone poem, a piece of soul geography to get lost in. One of the titles, "Far Away Songs," perfectly encapsulates the overall mood.

When Baim's echo-laden, whispery vocals emerge from the shadows, as on "Wounded Whale," there's a skewed, gorgeous '40s dance hall feel, the low end of a USO show as the last dance subsides and the boys board the planes for foreign shores. Baim's voice is the love and ache that stays home, awake in the long hours, lonely and striving for hope despite the loneliness and loss.

So many records are described as "haunting" that the word has been devalued. But, the definition – a visitation that remains in our consciousness – is too apt in this case to avoid. Death of the Sun is a haunted puzzle that moves us like a sonic Quija board. What's revealed will vary with the individual.

JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 8/14/07]

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