Review: Baylies Band - Man Ray or Vague Knitting (75 or Less, 2011)

There’s a sort of deep sense of injustice in terms of how the underground treats the CD format. Often scolded and ignored for whatever reasons, be it being “too mainstream” (that’s pretty ideological), sometimes deemed “too fragile” or maybe even “too hi-fi”, the shiny disc might be considered a pariah in the psychedelic otherworld. Which is a crying shame, not because of the better, digital sound quality, but because many of the seemingly “underground” zines and websites appear to simply ignore some of the happenings in the compact disc scene. Whether it’s a format-based ignorance or just the fact no one informed them about the fact there is a lot of truly exciting music being released on CD’s now, too. It seems like there are whole psychedelic labels devoted to CD’s and CD-R’s only which go below the radar completely unnoticedjust because they don’t release on cassettes.

The Miami based psych-improv unit Baylies Band (led by Eric Baylies) is one of such sadly below-the-radar bands. OnMan Ray & Vague Knitting, released in silkscreened cardboard packaging (which proves my point that CD’s released in cardboard have a strange tendency to be better, or maybe it’s just placebo) is a collection of two improvised kling-klang salads followed by a conceptually thrilling idea of making one track out of two previous tracks, by fusing them together into one busy mix (the titular “Man Ray & Vague Knitting”). Of course, such a method is not new - it has been already employed by Boris on their Dronevil or by Heavy Winged and Windy & Carl on their split/collab Monolith Earth. But it’s always refreshig to hear more bands do create busy blends of improv sessions.

Baylies Band cite many bands and composers in their description, starting with Terry Riley’s In C (to which the whole album is a tribute), stressing the albums will be enjoyed by fans of, among others: Tortoise, U.S. Maple, Acid Mothers Temple, Blind Idiot God and Faust. In fact, there seems to be the most Faust-y influence in here, with tracks hitting a sort of avant-garde kraut trance, noodling, playful keyboards intertwining with droning, randomly soloing guitars and sparse, jazzy drumming. The tracks are a busy improvisational labirynth, easy to get lost in, closer in nature to the works of Dadaists and Surrealists than 60’s hippies (which is one of the tracks is named after famous American artist Man Ray). Even the album’s artwork recalls the Dada anarchy, featuring weird drawings of people and a “jerk contest” comic on the back, featuring such jerk feats as giving someone an indian sunburn or dumping a garbage can full of trash on someone.

Purchase the CD on 75 or Less website