Scott Baker doesn’t make videos to accompany his songs; he makes both at once. The visuals are in mind when the music is made, and vice versa. This makes his work as Abre Ojos flow with intention and grace. The music itself may contain rough edges, but the marriage between music and image is seamless. Baker’s new CD/DVD Gates is a mesmerizing meld of sight and sound that hypnotizes and unsettles in equal measure. In so doing, it reflects the meaning of abre ojos, a saying among the Spanish and Portuguese sailors navigating Australia’s coastal reefs: watch out.
Baker expands his idea of threat to include distortions, conspiracies, false friends and lies. There’s something in the closet. There’s something under the bed. Your spouse is hiding something from you. What does that stranger want? WHAT IS THAT SOUND? As the modern era unravels, the general public learns more about crime than ever before. The media dwells on the negative, from scandal to celebrity sound byte. What was once rumor has become fact. The government IS spying on you. That product DOES contain carcinogens. When conspiracy theories turn out to be true, the slope of truth seems covered in oil. The irony: although we are more informed than ever, we are not better informed; for example, in the United States, crime is down, although coverage of crime is up, providing a false image. But Abre Ojos is not concerned with the bright side. In fact, this project seems to say (in ironic fashion), “You want to get paranoid? Fine, let’s get paranoid.” The drones wind around the room in which they are played like creeping fears, the synthesized injections like suspicions, the vocal warbles like whispers of doubt. “Did God really tell you not to eat of any fruit in the Garden?”
The titles imply a movement away from religion and toward illumination: “Light On Our Foreheads”, “The Knowing of Truth”, “The Priests Dethroned”, “The Gates Are Open”. One can make a religion of just about anything, from traditional figures (Jesus, Buddha) to modern idols (money, image). Still, one cannot change truth; in the modern vernacular, “it is what it is”. And while Abre Ojos, like the rest of us, has no corner on the ultimate, he would love to reduce hypocrisy, and the first step is to expose it. If shining a light on what is traditionally ugly (in this case, dissonant noise and unclear image) helps to illuminate the beautiful (the flow of color and sound), then he has played his part. Listening to Gates is a dark experience, but watching Gates is bright, kaleidoscopic and pure, a distortion of a distortion that by default may be seen as clear. (Richard Allen)