Ka Baird of Spires wrangles sonic spirit shapes on her new solo album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Ka Baird of Spires wrangles sonic spirit shapes on her new solo album


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Ka (née Kathleen) Baird is half of Spires That in the Sunset Rise. While the ensemble has been based in Decatur, Chicago, and Madison, and its recent LP title Illinois Glossolalia (Feeding Tube) attests to their enduring midwestern connection, Baird now lives in New York. Since moving there she’s performed and recorded as a solo artist, first releasing a tape and an LP under the name Sapropelic Pycnic, and now assigning that title to her first solo album. Working alone, Baird pursues a more layered approach on Sapropelic Pycnic than she does with Spires, stacking loops and breath-paced passages of strings, woodwinds, and her vibrato-laden voice into incantatory songs and vertiginous instrumental pieces. Song titles like “Transmigration” and “Metamorphoses” suggest that the music is about transformational processes, but Baird’s mysterious music tends to suggest more than it explains. While the LP is pretty absorbing, one hopes that this solo set taps into the compelling stage presence she’s projected at recent Spires concerts. Shifting between voice, instruments, and effects pedals, she is like a shamanic switchwoman conducting sonic spirit trains that travel at breakneck speed but never collide.   v

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