Review Summary: Flying criminally under the radar in 2008, Baby, It's Cold Inside should be looked at as a future ambient/drone classic.Baby, It’s Cold Inside
is one of those
albums. You know the ones. One of those albums which, within moments of its starting, has you drifting in the dust of another world. One of those albums which you keep on repeat because you simply don’t know what to do with yourself when it ends. One of those albums which defies gravity; it goes up but it doesn’t come down, it somehow gets better with every listen. Yet, it’s also one of those albums which must accede to the ritual almost every truly great album must go through before its true potential is realized…
As the new releases pile up, you leave it for a little while. You say you’ll come back to it. I mean, how could you not? But the days of neglect soon turn to weeks and, before you know it, you’ve forgotten all about its existence. But that’s not the end of it.
Skip forward: a rainy Sunday afternoon. A wisp of surrealism floats in the air. Something feels different today but you can’t quite place it. You shuffle irritably through your record selection, trying to find a sound that will suit the peculiar mood of the day, but with no luck. As you begin to turn away, Baby, It's Cold Inside
catches your eye. A nostalgic smile comes across your face as you slide it out from between its two neighbouring album sleeves. Perfect.
You hit play, put on your headphones, and lie back watching the silent rain beat against the windows. Within seconds you've melted through your couch and slipped back into that world again, paralysis consuming. You haven't been there in so long you're actually relived it still exists. And you think to yourself... why did I ever leave?
The Fun Years’ second LP after the promising Life-Sized Psychoses
is exactly this, and is, quite simply, a monster. It rounds up the assorted sounds of Philip Jeck, GAS, Mogwai and Grouper, drone, electro-ambience, post rock and psychedelic folk, and stomps across each one of them, picking out and sucking on the bones that jut from their flesh. But, somehow, it does so quietly, clinically, and with gorgeous deft. Scattered with organic glitches and crackles, the album radiates a homely, yet otherworldly warmth. Ben Recht’s lush, gently assertive guitars swell and shrink, slowly pulsating to develop layers upon layers of rich, seemingly bottomless musical density. The turntables, operated by Isaac Sparks, sound strangely pure, inartificial, as if the artist had clutched the sky, captured a sound, and released it into the habitat of the album. The measured blend of both member’s work becomes essential to the record’s natural air. All the elements end up working in tandem to create music which slips tantalizingly in and out of focus, blurring the line between organic and electric.
Opener ‘My Lowville’ takes these ingredients to create a track which immediately envelops the listener in a capsule of nostalgia and faraway thoughts. The spitting crackles introduce a simple guitar melody which throbs purposefully, before a new, intensely thick guitar note slowly spirals up and swirls around everything else. It encircles the track in noise, like a heavy smoke, the track itself struggling for breath before the noise dissipates so subtly its absence only becomes noticeable when it has fully disappeared. Each track slips into the other like the new phase of a dream, with middle track ‘Fuck
ing Milwaukee’s Been Hesher Forever’ acting as the central event. The sound of sucking, vinyl crackles, and other miscellaneous noises accompany dual guitars which start solidly enough but gradually begin to collide, thus rippling against each speaker. Spacey ambience rises and falls, ticks and tocks, always moving but impossible to catch in flight, creating a track which very much embodies Brian Eno’s famous saying; that truly great ambient music has to be listened to on a number of levels, be it actively or inactively.
And that is the allure of this album. Like a small but prominent number of albums before it, it can be enjoyed in so many interweaving ways. It would be impossible to pay your undivided attention to it for its entire 45-minute run time, but focusing on the density, trying to pick out each level of noise is quite awe-inspiring. Yet, just as you start to think how remarkable the attention to detail is, you’ve slipped out of that active state into an inactive one and the record takes your hand and guides you back into your own thoughts. Then something pops up and you want to focus once more. This is a cycle which repeats itself throughout, and is a testament to the greatness of a true ambient/drone record. People think ambient music is just a bunch of pretty noises, designed to be listened to as an accompaniment to other tasks, to help you chill out, but, essentially, to not be given any attention. The Fun Years have created an album here which destroys that notion. Its perpetual warmth does not and cannot go unnoticed.
Baby, It’s Cold Inside
isn’t perfect. ‘Auto Show Day of the Dead’ uses and repeats a slightly ill-advised piano section which puts the theme of warmth on hold and freezes the record in a state which is perhaps too eerie and too paranoid. The hot spits of glitches continue while a guitar line almost parallels the piano one, but they are no longer steeped in reminiscence and contemplation, but instead in one-eye open anxiety and sinister weirdness. Nevertheless, the band has still managed to create a world here for the listener to experience, investigate and wander. It may not be in keeping with the rest of the record, but it is still a meticulously structured, fantastically vast and flawlessly detailed world regardless.
That’s why records like this are so difficult to review. Not only do they transport you to places that are so deeply personal to each individual that describing them would be, ultimately, meaningless. Not only do the worlds themselves so defy the manacled categorizations of adjectives and verbs that they force the reviewer into making descriptions which are vague and almost spineless. Not only this, but these albums also require your attention to wander to fully succeed, to be actively inactive. To bore and to burrow into the noise, to develop and to tangle outside of it. Eventually, the sounds of these records fertilize thoughts that tunnel so deep or climb so high that you couldn’t possibly follow them to the end. But ask yourself: would you really want to?
Baby, It’s Cold Inside
embodies all these qualities and more. It’s simply one of those albums
. And while the theme which unites this special group of albums is their alluring ineffability, there is still one word that can be assigned to them. Timeless.