Baze Blackwood is the solo project of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Miles Blackwood Robinson. Pulling from a number of diverse influences, Robinson’s freak-pop sensibilities and bathroom-pop approach to production have underlied every Baze project since the home recording ‘2’ was re-released in 2018. Shortly thereafter, ‘if it is’ was produced with long-time collaborator Scoops Dardaris, an alt-Americana expression of everything from wonder and heartache—to politics and paranoia. Working alongside psych outfit Arc Iris and Scoops, the newest Baze EP, retroject (out Sep 18 2020) swirls with pulsing soundscapes and rich orchestration and explores notions of identity and time.
Robinson’s most recent work as Baze came out of a desire to address the morphing of identity and persona over time—which ended up apparent not only in retroject’s themes, but also the process. Several songs grew as seeds from decade-old demos, dusted off and reapproached, the end result being a negotiation between the younger, unrestrained and instinctual songwriter and his older, more nuanced—yet direct—counterpart. Underpinning the sound of four of five tracks are the superb, evolved Arc Iris arrangements—Zach Tenorio’s flittering synth dimensions, Jocelyn Adam’s slick vocal counterpoint and Ray Belli’s understated rhythmic momentum offer a sense of cohesion to the vehicle. Co-producing the last song on the record, Robinson and Scoops manifest a black sheep of a dance track that still somehow finds its home amongst the bunch— When I Wake Up captures the feeling of anxiety as time passes us by, juxtaposed against an insatiable uptempo four-on-the-floor beat that wouldn’t be out of place on a Miike Snow album.
The lead single off the EP, Don’t Remember, is emblematic of this melancholy fascination with identity—a dreamy drunken dirge that oscillates between the awe of the strange perfection of the infinite space of our universe and its narrator that wishes to disappear in the sheer immensity of it all—desiring to be forgotten. Monday hinges on the strange condition of time—while sculpting a Khruangbin-esque guitar texture to complement it’s orchestral components. Robinson opines on how to find comfort on a planet that routinely subjects its residents to “semi-permanent darkness”. The answer—in the end—he vocalizes with building intensity, is “old light”; ”old light is where it is found”. Reaching into a funkier vein is Carpe Tempus, a song that grooves along with crisp percussion and mellow synths (reminiscent of Toro y Moi), interrogating the feelings that come along with looking critically at one’s own actions. Serene/Obscene, perhaps the darkest song on the record, uses apocalyptic imagery as a stand-in for the unspeakable loss of loved ones; its unfurling waltz repeatedly bends and folds under its own weight, only to return majestically in the coda.
The songs on retroject are prismatic explorations of angst and unease–and ultimately, their ability to drive and change us. In meditating on the past, both in lyric and in form, retroject contends with the relative comfort of the past while speaking to our preoccupation and discomfort with revisiting past selves and past lives. It encapsulates the uncanny feeling of hearing your voice on a grainy cell phone video for the first time—the duality of recognizing one’s whole self in abstract while simultaneously being aware of being made up of a million infinitesimally small, constantly moving—and changing—parts.