This release, what may in fact be the first from Sparkling Wide Pressure, is a delicate and haunting work of art that deserves an audience. Listening to it feels inherently voyeuristic in the best way possible ? like being secretly privy to the intimate thoughts, obsessions, dreams, and passions of an individual who is guarded and introspective. In the accompanying explanation, we discover that this individual is Frank Baugh from Tennessee. His bio tips us off that indeed his is an entirely personal vision, and even suggests some ambivalence about making the private so public: ?While I do love people, I also know that I love a certain isolation, and the total freedom of indulging in the eccentricities of personal vision?. Baugh?s interest in the personal is by no means solipsistic or egotistical however. Instead, he seems to be acknowledging that he?s slightly out of step with the world and embracing the freedom that comes with solitude. Luckily for us, his artistic vision isn?t a selfish one, and we?re allowed inside his head for a few minutes.
The first track, ?Opening Cave?, begins things with a haunting ambient atmosphere, heavy use of reverb, and the running vocal monologue of what might be a therapy session. The dangers associated with using literal spoken content are many (see Godspeed You Black Emperor for Exhibit A), and unfortunately this is the least effective track here. The male voice recounting various memories and therapeutic insights is a bit too literal and takes away from the mystery Baugh seems to court so effectively elsewhere. Luckily, the second track, ?17 ? Year Fade?, rights the ship by leading into more abstract territory with various loops and ominous bass tones emerging. It?s a particularly effective strategy, and adds a welcome sense of disorientation after the voyeuristic eavesdropping of the opener. Again, spoken fragments float in, but they?re disembodied now and interspersed with melodic interludes, and assorted lovely sounds. As the record progresses, the disorientation continues, it is in this abstract zone where Baugh excels and stays. Like a surreal dream, the soundworld becomes more familiar and more comforting at the same time. It?s this paradoxical ability to confuse and comfort that characterizes Baugh?s work here. Like a vague and fascinating sound from several rooms away, we?re drawn in, wanting to know more, hoping to fill in the lines in the mysterious images he seems to be painting. And like dreams and memories, which are clearly Baugh?s key source material, the images are never fully clear or revealed. Instead they remain a blurry yet beautiful mess, but also become addictive in their sleepy warmth.
Lo-fi folk guitar figures, reversed sound snippets, ambient hiss, and moaned vocals congeal into a patchwork quilt of drone-influenced sound. This is a masterfully woven sonic collage and an ode to memory that is deeply personal and emotionally moving. It?s rare that a solo release like this can hit the mark so perfectly. Even the very slight misstep of the opening track becomes part of the record?s charm. Memory isn?t perfect, and it?s often best experienced in the half surrender of sleep and dreams. Baugh seems to know this intuitively, and has ultimately created a wonderfully rich, balanced, and patient piece of sonic art. 9/10 -- Eric Hardiman (28 November, 2007)