Ka Baird & Andy Ortmann - Psychic Activation Ritual [Nihilist Recordings - 2017]
Psychic Activation Ritual is released on a C-46 tape via Nihilist Recordings and features the sonic talents of Ka Baird, founding member of Spires That in the Sunset Rise, and Andy Ortmann founder of Nihilist Recordings, and musician in his own right who has recorded under various guises throughout the last 28 years, most notably as part of Panicsville with David Forquer and Ryan Kohler. This album appears to represent the pair’s first collaboration together.
Album opener Bioluminescent Dawn starts slowly and builds as the track grows and finds itself growing almost organically. Each pass adds something new and different into the mix and what started life as a track built on some fairly basic synth chords takes on new and interesting shapes across its length. Variations on A Concrete Piano begins with the rattling, rustling and scraping found sounds, whilst a beautiful piano riff plays beneath the mayhem, almost as a juxtaposition to the metallic sounds that are taking centre stage. Spacey synth sounds enter the fray and add an otherworldly feel to the proceedings. The whole track has an off kilter, sinister feel to it. Bodies Never Learn is up next, the track is built around a distorted flute riff that feels almost tribal in its very nature. Over time various buzzing and bleeping sounds are added into the mix before everything drops out leaving a sound not dissimilar to a burglar alarm. This section is a difficult listen, it truly hurt my ears. Once the harsh burglar alarm dissipates, various synth sounds, and odd vocal samples add to the track’s ethereal strangeness.
The second half of the album kicks off with Spidery, Needling and Lacking A True Sense of Self-Destruction, as glitchy, off-kilter synth lines become the focus of the first part of the track, before a melancholy, sinister piano piece takes over. The juxtaposition of the strange electronic sounds and the organic sounding piano make for an interesting bit of interplay, not for the first time on this album. There is definitely something to be taken from this record about the apposition of the electronic and the organic. Obtuse Construction No. 5 is slightly more ambient sounding than the previous track, however the glitchy off-kilter synth lines are still in evidence, only a little more demure. The weird vocal samples have returned, adding to the track’s eccentricity. Mid-way through and the track flips, becoming something completely different. Peculiar synth flourishes move in and out as the track mixes things up. The final track on the album is the epic Avant Garde noise of the title track Psychic Activation Ritual. At over twelve minutes long, this is by far the longest track on the album and more importantly its true heart. Sinister, distorted synth lines open the track, before they grow and develop as the song progresses. Despite the fact it builds it retains the same dark nature that is prevalent at the opening. The track eventually drops off into a series of electronic drones, and more of those weird vocal samples. There is more going on in this one track than there is across the rest of the album, there is most certainly a debt of gratitude owed to the fine innovative work of Delia Derbyshire and David Vorhaus, whose White Noise project furrowed a similar path many years ago.
Overall the album’s not bad, the first five tracks are decent enough Avant Garde noise, however it’s not until we reach the title track that the project realizes its true potential. This is a tour de force that harks back to many of the electronic pioneers of the past. It is also worth mentioning that the album uses Ka Baird’s fantastic flute work to great effect, using distortion to create a quite unique sound. My main criticism is that the final track is so incredibly good that it makes the lesser tracks seem worse than they are. If only the whole release was of the same standard as the title track?Darren Charles