Review: John Saint-Pelvyn and Ka Baird’s “Five Years Inside the Sun”

There is something primordial about Five Years Inside the Sun, the recent album from John Saint- Pelvyn and Ka Baird (also featuring contributions from drone artist Camilla Padgitt-Coles). It has the same kind of chaotic and elemental aspect that you might find if you put a blade of grass under a microscope – the kind of discordant beauty that exists, contrary to all of our predefined notions about aesthetics, in nature.

It starts with “Year 1,” and progresses through Years 2, 3, and 4, growing slightly more defined with each step. The first year is an eerie ambient jaunt through ghostly drone (courtesy of Padgitt-Coles’ singing bowl) punctuated in stabs by Saint-Pelvyn’s hypnotic guitar feedback. Year 2 widens the sound to contrast a dreamy flute melody with asiatic strings, gongs, and Baird’s vocals which range from operatic to squeals. Album standout “Year 3” expands that palette even further, when Baird really lets loose with the vocal layering and Saint-Pelvyn adds touches of what ranges from plucked Spanish scales to guitar primitivism. The final track tamps things back down with an ethereal melange of singing and laughing.

Though it may or may not have been intended as such, the whole record could be viewed a a life/death cycle, joining the world in a chaotic splash, growing, and then finally leaving it with a sigh and a laugh. The fact that Five Years was completely improvised and recorded live in a Massachusetts cabin seems to suggest no such agenda, but unexpected themes can and do creep into improvisational work. 

You can stream as well as purchase Five Years Inside the Sun via the bandcamp link below or pick up the record (which comes in a beautiful tri-fold cover featuring a lithograph by print artist Jenny Schmid) here.

Both Saint-Pelvyn and Baird will also be part of the upcoming Drone Not Drones performance at the Cedar Cultural Center.

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