Review of Sam Baker's Album Album by Samiyam

Part of the Brainfeeder label's non beardy and and only kinda weirdy roster along with the likes of Tokimonsta, The Gaslamp Killer and Thundercat, Sam Baker (AKA Samiyam) comes originally not from Southern California but Ann Arbor Michigan, the nominal birthplace of The Stooges. Sharing a birthplace with James Newell Osterberg that might be perceived as the crucible of punk rock, Baker's virtually self titled second album will probably like to think that it's as similarly ahead of it's time as Fun House, but in reality struggles to make a convincing case to back this up.

Samiyam Sam Baker's Album Album

Brainfeeder's impresario is of course Stephen "Flying Lotus" Ellison, the DJ/Artist/Producer who in his day job has been shredding perceptions and pushing the boundaries of post hip-hop for the last four or five years, the output essentially having in America the same cathartic effect on non-mainstream electronic music as the likes of James Blake, Burial and The XX have had over here. Gathering like-minded disciples around him via his famous Low End Theory LA club nights, in label guise his releases so far have showcased the sometimes menacingly bleak industrial places (Gaslamp Killer) but also fragile beauty (Tokimonsta) of the music that machines can produce. Frequently challenging, times have certainly never been dull.

All of this context means that Sam Baker's album is, even after the listener has got their head around the expected abstraction, something of an unfinished canvas. It certainly doesn't lack energy or ideas, with it's feast of unrelenting samples, breaks and loops enough to satisfy any avid fan of Rustie or Hudson Mohawke. But the problem is that on a number of occasions the tracks are just that - unfinished, out of focus concepts not given the time to develop. When Baker has the patience to let things go beyond the two minute mark, little magic happens, as on the scribbly, out of focus synth lines of My Buddy, or the funkier tribalism of closer Sometimes. Complete in a jigsaw made from the wrong pieces way, these exceptions only add to the sense of frustration about the rest. Over and over, as on Kitties, Bedtime and Turtles to name just three, the ingredients are all there for a delicious steaming portion of deep fried space funk or cosmic glitch-hoporama, only for the joy to be prematurely truncated as things slide away through an event horizon of lost focus.

It seems more than a little weird to even type the words "Vaguely derivative" and Brainfeeder or FlyLo in the same sentence, but the lack of rhythm and pacing on Sam Baker's album points to one of two things; one, either the folks there aren't applying the right amount of quality control, or alternatively that this whole twenty third century droid tunage joint is close to being played out. Either could be true, but given what's come before, you've gotta instead have some faith that this is just an almighty glitch.

Andy Peterson

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