Agitated Atmosphere: Bill Baird – Spring Break of the Soul

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Bill Baird.

The world of psychedelia has undergone numerous face lifts but few have been on the metaphysical level—that magnificently magenta aura that is often the subject of the sunnier side but obscured by the dark, gritty clouds of its maddening past.

The intersection of the Venn Diagram of psychedelia: where pop meets garage meets mind meets matter, this is the crevice of Bill Baird. A sinisterly sweet mixture of acid rain and hallucinogenic smiles, Spring Break of the Soul has no fear in smearing the genre’s neon pop Day-Glo and casting out the demonic overtures of its seedier sounds.

Case in point: “Sailing”. Baird appropriates the classic Christopher Cross yacht rocker into a moody but sadistically poppy crawl. “Sailing” does not obscure the majesty of Cross’ original but the slower pace through the stormy sea is more reality than the original cares to capture in its own sleepy-eyed haze. Further confusion occurs with “Big Sir Reverie,” a summery interpretation of post-Beach Boys California—those heady times of Manson and drugs—that still feels as warm as a Wilson melody and a Love vocal without a bit of irony (“Blob” even invoking latter Beach Boys with its Holland style storytelling).

Baird doesn’t shy away from experimenting with the stretched-thin scene. “Bow Down to the Brain” is R. Stevie Moore in reverse; “Lake Eerie” is nimble motorik amid the buzzing of Mendelssohn and Morrison; a groggy belch of the echoing drone amid a sea of deft strings. Spring Break of the Soul does not succeed in its lofty titular goals but as a further expansion of Baird’s repertoire and exposing a genre for its faults by capitalizing on them, Spring Break of the Soul should be a one-two punch (along with Harmony Korine’s film, Spring Breakers) in exploring the essence of America at a time when we’re too fixated on the façade.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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