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Bernard
Baum: After (Panatype)

Bernard
Baum’s After is a short, fast-moving but unassuming album that’s
quietly worked its way into my list of favorites after repeat listens
this fall. It only clocks in at about a half hour, so its nine tracks
go by rather swiftly, like discrete clouds in the sky drifting by
faster than you might realize at first. I don’t know much about Baum,
other than he is one of the founders of the French Panatype label, and that this
collection of tracks is a real grower. Many of its short tracks glide
in like beams of sunlight through gauzy curtains, creeping in and out
of view as the earth turns. This ensures that none of After’s tracks
overstays its welcome, but I actually would prefer a few of these to
unfold with more patience or at least stick around longer. “Onra”
is such a track, its airy arrangement lush and hazy, leaving me
wanting at least double the serving.

After by Bernard Baum

Likewise, even in its ambient
sparseness, “Gully” could be twice as long and not get old to my
ears. Its use of detuned field recordings intermixed with ambient
electronics is refreshing up against more overtly gaseous
arrangements like “Comin’ Down in SE5” or the clicks_+_cuts-esque
severity of “Cold Agriculture.” The album’s centerpiece is
“Atoll,” a four-minute dub techno track that pulses with the
sedate filter of vintage Porter Ricks or Polmo Polvo, but I’m
inclined to opt for the final track, a beatless mix of “Atoll.”
This gorgeous, extended take delivers on the teases of other tracks
with a gorgeous lushness that recalls the grace and ease of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient
Works II
in the best of ways. Lest the comparisons somehow cheapen
Baum’s sense of pacing or the quality of his music, After stands
strong as a quiet masterpiece, understated and beautiful.

Buy it: Bandcamp