(New Album Review) Matteah Baim- Falling Theater

Matteah Baim has returned from a five year recording hiatus for Falling Theater, her new solo album. It is not quite as good as 2009’s excellent The Laughing Boy, but it is one of the best American folk albums of the year.

Though she has experimented often in her career, for example, with the glossolalia of Metallic Falcons, her collaboration with Sierra Casady of Cocorosie, the greatest asset of Baim’s work is its clarity.   Baim’s gentle contralto voice and compassionate, symbolism-heavy lyrics make her one of the more accessible of the so-called “Freak Folk” songwriters. Like Marissa Nadler, Baim is not a purist, and some elements of rock and dream pop occasionally stray into the arrangements. To be honest, I find the way that Baim incorporates other styles of music into her folksongs to be a good deal more satisfying than the way that some of her contemporaries pull it off.

Moreover, there is something of a jazzy, relaxed style that takes hold of this very charming lady at times. One can sense it coming through loud and clear on “Good for Two,” a memorable duet with Antony Hegarty. It’s a deftness and pleasantness that sidesteps boringness that makes this album, to me at least, a bit reminiscent of the good old stuff, like, say, L.A. Turnaround by Bert Jansch. The spell is enhanced by composer Maxim Moston’s fine arrangements, the best of which is the one for the sweet love song “Dude”. Truth be told, Baim does not rock much at all on this record, which was not also the case on The Laughing BoyFalling Theater is like a a long letter from a friend, detailing a rather picturesque road trip– it is a mild-tempered and wistful collection of sketches.

And the album has a particularly memorable finale: the open chords of “Familiar Way” open seamlessly into the slow, hypnotic “Blindman’s Hand”, the most experimental track out of the whole undertaking. Falling Theater will no doubt be an album that will build up a cult following over time.

For my readers in Portland, be sure to check out Matteah for her appearance in support of Perfume Genius at Mississippi Studios on October 24th. I will try to make it out for that show.


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