Baxter Roy Long is an experimental folk musician who simultaneously released two albums on Furious Hooves back in February. Both records, Flower Essence Questionnaire and Palms On The Setting Stone, introduce us to his meandering psych-tinged creations via stunning tape imprints. Not content at stopping there though, Long last month put out a full-length instrumental album, Mouth Mirroring Ear, further developing and expanding the Baxter Roy Long aesthetic for those who missed the train first time around.
If Flower Essence Questionnaire tells you anything about Long’s music, it’s that it cannot be summarised by any neat genre tag. From the dusty warmth of ‘Paribanou’ and almost dream-pop vibes of ‘Alone in Your Fantasy’, to the wistful beauty of ‘Pin to Pin’ and sultry danger of ‘Halib Makkah’, the album is consistent only in its ability to surprise the listener, twisting and turning like an undulating snake.
The variation is best highlighted at the end of the record. The penultimate track is the heavy-aired ‘It Closes How It Opens’, a stark and strange summer storm, the sky streaked and striated with light until the front finally moves on, the air stilled and scented with ozone. This is followed by the mean ‘Baby Baby’, a track far more rooted in human darkness, Long’s whispered vocals menacing and seductive all at once, and a world away from the elemental violence of the previous song. However, Long’s recording philosophy makes such fluctuation unsurprising, his creative process prolific yet the opposite of focused. “I circumvented oblivion tailored to a moment under a shadowed elixir,” he says. “I daydreamed slowly and dilly dallied carelessly. Taking time forever to record songs for nothing.”
Not to be outdone, Palms on the Setting Stone only furthers the experimentation, though is generally a warmer record that builds robust atmospheres of the American kind—vast and lonely and full of life. Here, every horizon holds the promise of another, one wider and brighter and possibly stranger too, a land full of a million weird, fleeting, experiences populated by jackalope and agropelter, sasquatch and snallygaster. From the slow, matutinal rise of opener ‘Arrow Wrap’ and the bright optimistic sound of ‘Quarter Journey’, to the muted majesty of ‘March of Saginaw’ and the crooked campfire folk of ‘I Am Your New Friend’, this is an album to search in and stumble over. A musical landscape to explore.
The only purely instrumental record of the three, Mouth Mirroring Ear is another melting pot of sounds and influences. Feeling rooted in memory and tradition yet always moving forwards, the album feels indebted to people and places both, a soundtrack for the small moments when we allow ourselves to fully look around and understand our place in things. The exact meaning of all music is up for interpretation, but this more so than most. Just take a look at Long’s suitably abstract description: “I found an image of someone molding clay hands into the fragile unevenness of plastic sheathing. I took a photo of that photo and placed it between a projector mirror and my center. I bowed beneath it with microphone in hand, elbows acute and catching breath on the offbeat. I rotated the stereo out to a mono in and cut off the high end so the remaining warbles could slowly boil in the cauldron.”
To return to an earlier quote, Long’s idea of “recording for nothing” seems an important one. The lack of purpose or goal allows the record to shaped by natural forces, meaning arising from the instinct and intuition, and perhaps even places where there should be none. In his way, the music of Baxter Roy Long has a folkloric feel, keyed into the land and the passage of time, every variation and coincidence mapped and remembered, woven into the story of the world around us.
All three albums are out now via Furious Hooves and you can get them from Bandcamp. The beautiful cassette editions of Flower Essence Questionnaire and Palms On The Setting Stone are still available so be sure to snag yourself a copy of each.