Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Matt Baldwin - Paths Of Ignition

Matt Baldwin
Paths Of Ignition

AOTM #98, July 2008ce
Released 2007 on American Dust
Side One
  1. Weissensee (10.39)
  2. Jealous Woman (4.33)
  3. Winter (4.08)
Side Two
  1. Eulogy & Dark (6.01)
  2. Rainbow (14.23)

Note: When I reviewed the CD version of this record in a Drudion a coupla months ago, I little realised how much more often I’d be firing this sucker up once the vinyl versh arrived.

Coma Toes

From the very first moment I dragged the vinyl out of its too-tight shrink-wrap cut-and-paste sub-sub-MIND GAMES cover, I knew Matt Baldwin’s take on his role as new Guitar God was gonna be way different to the approach of his acoustic-driven contemporaries. Hell, even the accompanying 24” x 12” poster that fell out with the record was a statement in itself, Matt standing there – all 6’ 4” of him – long-haired, open-mouthed, hands-on-hips, glowering and gormless as Ozzy’s ‘What The?’ pose on the inner gatefold of PARANOID. Sure, the iTunes on my iBook stated ‘Folk’ but the 12” vinyl – in every way – screamed out ‘ROCK!’ For a start, what folk artist would choose to commence his debut LP with a 10-minute cover of Neu’s ‘Weissensee’, let alone conclude side one with a monster dobro-driven and feedback-overloaded version of Judas Priest’s ‘Winter’ that effortlessly summoned up nothing less than the post-Blue Cheer May West swagger of Randy Holden’s seminal POPULATION 2? Sure, the attendant press release could attempt to schmooze us with claims of Matt’s shared role as part of the spearhead of some neo-folk neo-John Fahey revival, but the aural evidence was totally in opposition to any such braying. Yes yes yes, I’m happy to admit that a delightful John Fahey-styled approach lay at the very eye of each hurricane performance. But what about that noise, motherfuckers? That fucking noise that swirled and ached and oozed and cranked from zero to one hundred on certain tracks... had his record company not even noticed the fucking electric Ur-racket that wellied out from underneath the soft white underbelly brung forth by this man mountain Pyramid of Geezer? Hell kiddies, on PATHS OF IGNITION, this so-called folkie Matt Baldwin druid is nothing less than a one-man Heavy Metal Band, a Stormin’ Norman raging liquid fire across the deserts of the first Gulf war, a flame thrower-wielding storm trooper at the gates of Moskva, fighting for his life and surrounded by scores of belligerent Russkies with starving huskies, each waiting to pounce on his meaty butt were he not more slithery than a bag full of KY’d cobras. A highly amphetamined and para-military Nick Drake filtered through K. Stockhausen’s ring modulator, maybe. But cosy moments with Matt Baldwin? I think not. I’ve played this album over & over, and it worries me the way they’ze trying to pass him off as the new Leon Kottke or maybe Steve Howe, not because it’s an irrelevant allusion, but because – with such a media approach – so many true Guitar Worshipping Motherfuckers out there in Rock’n’roll-land won’t even give Matt the time to spin his disc when they clock that Folkie tag. Besides, however much you try to conflate then accelerate Steve Howe’s ‘Mood For a Day’ with ‘The Clap’, it just ain’t never gonna sound like Matt Baldwin because Steve Howe just never sounded that H U N G R Y !!! Steve Howe needed the combined arsenal of Messrs. Bruford’s drums, Squire’s proto-Jean Jacques Burnel bass and R. Wakeman combination of Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, Steinway et al, before that fey twerp would have dared to attempt a 15-minute piece like Matt’s LP concluder ‘Rainbow’ … whereas, on said track, Matt takes on the trek entirely alone. Brothers’n’sisters, it’s fucking heroic. Moreover, therein, Brother Baldwin shows us that he wields the yawp, the power, the sh-sh-shakes, the precision and the know-how to take it all the way and then some.1 I even heard he’s taken some flak for presenting more structure than some current writers care to appreciate, well, fuck that because this is all gold. At his peak, Matt’s Leo Kottke-at-his-most-grinningly-demented Tigers on Vaseline slithery slide work sounding for all the world like he’s appropriated some Titan’s coffee mug and is scree-surfing down a rusty hillside of old goldmine railtracks on it. Elsewhere, Matt veritably hammers the strings, at times nearly clawing those fuckers off the fretboard in his need to coax, cajole and bully the maximum result from his poor tortured geetar. Highly perversely, Matt Baldwin himself chooses to call his own music ‘New Age’, and I like that because I can appreciate this true punk’s decision to side-step the genre question by opting for the most annoying one of all. But to all you Truth Seekers out there, this here reviewer would be being far more honest (and useful) to y’all and your own record collections if I simply declared the obvious: these Great Fists of Matt makes Ben Chasny sound like Marge Proops in comparison, and nope, this racketeer ain’t a One Man band in the modern Black Metal tradition of Bathory and Furze. But he sure ain’t just reviving J. Fahey and L. Kottke neither. So rush out and score yourselves this album on any format you wish, and just make sure you totally ignore the claims of others that this motherfucker is some kind of Folkie, however much the ‘Genre’ button on your iTunes attempts to hoodwink you. U-Know!

  1. On his desperately needed hols a coupla weeks ago, Holy McGrail fell into a super-stupor while under the influence of this record, and woke up laughing his head off at the sheer ludicrous over-achievement going on before his very ears.