Ka Baird
Bearings: Soundtracks for the Bardos
Rvng Intl
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For more than twenty years, Ka Baird has explored the outer dimensions of sound through performance. Extending far beyond their roots in the psychedelic folk movement of the early aughts, Ka is known for their raw, boundary pushing solo performances that bridge experimental sound, performance art, and ritual. Their tool set in the live arena includes extended voice and microphone techniques, electronics, flute and piano. Bearings follows their 2017 debut Sapropelic Pycnic and Respires, their acclaimed 2019 album.

Initially conceived as a twenty minute composition and presentation commissioned by Lampo in Chicago in the spring of 2022, Ka first explored the concept of “bearings” through a series of intimate performances where they shifted guises between magician, shaman, clown, and athlete, all enduring ongoing states of groundlessness through a physically demanding performance that entailed both play and struggle. This piece, in tandem with the heaviness of caring for a dying parent during the subsequent year, laid the groundwork for Bearings, with the album’s final narrative structure revealing itself in the months after their mother’s death the following September.

Enlisting a cast of contributors including Andrew Bernstein (alto saxophone), Max Eilbacher (flute processing, electronics), Greg Fox (percussion), gabby fluke-mogul (violin), Henry Fraser (contrabass), Joanna Mattrey (viola), John McCowen (contra clarinet), Camilla Padgitt-Coles (bowls, waterphone) Troy Schafer (strings), Chris Williams (trumpet), Nate Wooley (trumpet), and their beloved cat, Nisa (purrs) to create a collective hum and thrum, Ka and company create sprawling minimalist densities, punctuated by abrupt starts and stops, complex harmonics and textures, percussive flourishes, and a single, cyclical lyrical phrase: “Here. Disappear. Poof!”

Ka considers the album to be a deviant nod to a song cycle, throughout which certain motifs are repeated in different configurations. In the album’s sonic lexicon, a trumpet blast signifies a birth or death, or a distant string motif denotes a memory. Bearings is a durational work of profound abstraction and focus, within which sonorous elements, structure, and meaning reach a single, unified form. This amounts to nothing short of a creative high-water mark for one of the most dynamic and uncompromising artists working in the landscape of music today.