FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Concentric Circles

Time Has Told Me: Carola Baer

leave a comment »

The lyrics tell a timeless story, the story is in almost every song, be nice, care, be close.”

—Carola Baer

 Words: Mark Carry

carola ii

Towards the end of 2018 came the special discovery of Carola Baer’s early 90’s private home recordings, released on the new Portland, Oregon re-issue label Concentric Circles (curated by Freedom To Spend’s Jed Bindeman). The collection’s  eleven highly emotive song cycles were recorded, composed and performed between 1990 and 1991 in San Francisco. The minimal arrangements for Yamaha-DX-7 and Casio CZ-101 synthesizers creates utterly beguiling soundscapes – masterfully blended beneath Carola Baer’s mesmerizing vocal delivery.

Themes of betrayal, isolation and anguish seep throughout the album’s striking narrative. Album opener ‘Maker of Me’ unleashes an empowering dimension as Baer quivers “I asked you to hold my hand/But you let go” on the opening verse.  Luminscent piano notes drift in the ether of broken dreams: Baer’s voice shares the hypnotic spell of 4AD alumnis Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins.

Total transcendence is attained on the hypnotic ‘Golden Boy’ wherein reverb drenched vocals swirl majestically alongside pulsating drum machines and divine synths. This belongs at the axis of Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’ and vintage Cocteau Twins: a tortured soul is struck down and laid to bare. Cinematic spoken word passages permeates throughout ‘We Already Feel’ while ‘Doors Talk’ contain ethereal chime-like organ dreamwave soundscapes that meld effortlessly with Baer’s powerful voice.

Gorgeous tapestries of keyboards and synths flow on the enthralling ‘See The Lights Again’ – a song of hope. The lyric “You must walk alone” resonates powerfully. The song’s rise serves one of the album’s most poignant and hope-filled peaks: from the depths of darkness uncovers the first glimpses of hope and optimism “to see the lights again”.

‘The Story of Valerie’ is out now on Concentric Circles.

https://concentriccircles.bandcamp.com/album/carola-baer-the-story-of-valerie

valerie

Interview with Carola Baer.

 

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about your captivating and beguiling song cycles. I was first introduced to your music with the wonderful compilation ‘The Story of Valerie’, released towards the end of last year. These batch of songs were recorded, composed and performed between 1990 and 1991 in San Francisco. Please take me back to this period in time and your memories of creating these sonic creations? Would this have been the first collection of songs you had written?

Carola Baer: Set in the 80’s bleak economic Thatcher years young me 24, I left UK for one year open ended trip to San Francisco, Australia, Bali and back to UK with work permit for Australia. I had no intention of coming back. Went to SF, met someone within 3 days who turned my world. It’s as much a story of immigration, betrayal, trust, hope, despair, tragedy, loss, growth, coming of age, determination and ultimately success ending with the discovery of story of Valerie and two beautiful children and a loving husband.

Gist of the Story. I was in SF for 2 weeks to pick up my Australian girl friend. I met Ian. Ian had a girlfriend who had left him with if /when I return we’ll see if we want to be together. Do what you want, I will. So we could be together but with understanding Diane would come back. Because of time restraints, passion runs high, he was a musician and I was in limbo, but bottom line I loved him from head to toe. Deeply vulnerable, insecure me, beautiful confident talented golden boy. (Though that song was written 2 years later).

Diane came back, betrayal was deep and not just between him and me but others got involved. I wrote See the lights again either the day he broke with me or just before. Nothing left to say was written a day or two after he left me for Diane. I wrote a whole first album called Open Door. All 10 songs about Ian. See the lights and Nothing left to say came from this first album. I’ve done nothing else with these tracks and they still remain in a horrible badly tuned piano cassette live recording.

Ian went back to Diane, I was determined to complete the album (as he started recording on a 4 track and that all stopped before completion), I went to a proper studio to pay someone to record. Ended up in a green card marriage and 7 months later Diane and Ian broke up. He called wanted me back, mistake to have gone back to Diane, I said I got married 9 days ago. I was thinking of calling story of Valerie 9 days. Tragic. Much craziness happened in these first 4 years in SF. Ian and I remained friends but my marriage was an utter disaster, I was rendered homeless at one point and lived in fear of deportation due to failed marriage. It was a serious mess. Described as a tightrope from one cliff to another. I walked, I wobbled, I fell and caught on with one hand then one finger and eventually crawled back up and made it across.

Carola i

These songs were described beautifully as “a one off mixtape of newly recorded songs”. I’d love to gain an insight into your musical set-up (at this time- during the early 90’s) and your song-writing process? I feel the lo-fi, minimal quality to your songs creates such a striking intimacy that hits you deeply upon every listen.

CB: Giving up on the Ian songs I joined a band called Process. Industrial early digitalized drum machine programmed bass duo with 064 Freeman multimedia experimental from 1988 to 1991. He played electric guitar and organised all sounds. I sang and wrote lyrics. Later added keys. Shared a creative space with him and 5 others. We shared equipment. It was during the last year of Process 1991 to 1993 that I worked on my solo keys music represented with story of Valerie. But all of story of Valerie was recorded by me on a 4 track using my keys. I would go to the studio on weekends when no one else wanted it and set to record some thing. I’d always start with a keys part improvised on the spot. I love to just play and record whatever comes out. Sometimes magic. It may be 5 minutes or 25 minutes long. You kind of know when it’s time to stop. Then rewind cassette and record either another keys part or vocal part. All live no dubs first takes, occasional punch in. Then add a second vocal . I love mixing duel vocals parts. Then mix it all beautifully.

‘Maker of Me’ is the glorious opening track to this timeless musical document. This track is drenched in reverb and the far-reaching qualities evoke the 4AD luminaries such as Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. Can you recount your memories of writing this song and witnessing the song come to glittering life? The spoken word elements are superb also. 

CB: ‘Maker of Me’ was an original jam. I may even have an early recording of this initial jam. I developed this into a song by sequencing the piano part and probably playing along. The intent of the song was directed at God or a greater spirit being as I have no idea of my faith. My faith is for the love of life, respect life and a sheer disappointment in the unnecessary cruelty that goes on or is permitted to happen. So an accusation to this higher power who are you to judge us when you don’t offer help or that you stand back and let this happen. Cold.

In terms of the recording process, were there challenges posed in order to capture the raw emotion and feeling in the songs? Were these live takes (as I get the impression they are, or at least with very minimal overdubs)?

CB: The aim of the recordings were experimental, to find out my limits, exploration, release of emotions, therapeutic.

I have always been looking for others to collaborate with as I feel I have limitations especially when it comes to self-promotion, something I am terrible at. So the tapes were made in order to share with others to find musical mates.

‘Golden Boy’ is an utterly transcendent and hypnotic tour-de-force: one feels the pain and anguish come flooding out the speakers. Across the album, there is a duality of light and dark but ultimately there is a self perseverance that reigns true. As a listener, it feels that the act of the music-making process became a cathartic and healing process for you? 

CB: Golden boys as mentioned was written 2 years after I met Ian as we were in and out of each others lives for 5 years.

The immaculate instrumentation utilized is another hallmark of this great sonic journey. For example, the middle section of ‘Doors Talk’ (with the gorgeous organ tapestries beneath your emotive vocals) and the lucid synthesizer experiments of ‘Save Me’ forms a deeply affecting and empowering experience. Was the sequencing of this compilation important for you? 

CB: Sequencing was experimented with. I like repetition, getting into a zone and feeling the movement there. It provided rhythm and could free me up from playing complex patterns while singing.

 

carola

Please take me back to your earliest musical memories? Were there particular records or musical voices, so to speak that proved defining moments? 

CB: I loved spacing out to The Dark Side Of The Moon as a teen, and loved the 4AD label – This Mortal Coil more so than Cocteau twins, but also Dead Can Dance – that ethnic intensity. I also liked Brian Eno, Mazzy Star.

I am half Armenian so the eastern aspect of music runs though me. My grandfather was the sole survivor of his entire family after the Armenian genocide 1906. He used to cry silent tears each time us grandchildren went round. We thought funny man but as an adult I know his tears were relief that what he went though was over.

You kindly sent me on newer recordings – both solo guitar recordings and your band Quiet Wish. Can you discuss your latest projects and how you see these fit alongside the early 90’s document of ‘The Story of Valerie’?

CB: I have been playing in a band called Quiet Wish for 4 years. We play intensive powerful music mixed in with moments of sweetness and suspense. Drums, loops, dual guitars, keys, effects and voice. Potential to be brilliant but currently struggling due to internal issues. I cannot go into details. The band is at a crossroad currently and decisions on which direction need to be made.

I don’t believe I could stop making music. I can get out and perform more solo and hope to meet just the right people to bring this music, past and present, more out there so others or more can hear it.

The lyrics tell a timeless story, the story is in almost every song: be nice, care, be close.

I can stay in this band, I can form a new band, I could collaborate on something magnificent with others.

valerie casette

Lastly, my favourite track is perhaps the prayer-like, ethereal pop gem ‘See the Lights Again’. Can you talk me through this particular recording? Looking back on these songs, you must feel quite surprised in a way of hearing the timeless quality of these songs? 

CB: See the Lights was either the day Diane came back or during those 4 or so weeks for Ian to decide which lady he would take, I think Nothing Left to say was the day of break up song.

The story of Valerie is a collection of songs and pieces of captured moments from those times I recorded solo. I recorded solo because I had the opportunity to do so in the shared musical space, and because at times I was lonely and wanted to get out of the house but not go out to a club or bar alone. So the music studio was a kind of refuge. Unfortunately my solo time was cut short because a very controlling person came into my life and cut me off bit by bit from everyone including my music and I lost the studio. I made many mistakes as a vulnerable immigrant but you are ripe for exploitation. I say just because you have a dog by your feet doesn’t mean you have to kick it, you can be nice.

‘The Story of Valerie’ is out now on Concentric Circles.

https://concentriccircles.bandcamp.com/album/carola-baer-the-story-of-valerie

Written by admin

May 7, 2019 at 1:42 pm