By Alan RantaAustin psych-pop composer Bill Baird has been on the edge of glory for years now. His indie rock band Sound Team had some buzz going for them in the first half of the noughties until they signed a deal with Capitol Records, who promptly mismanaged the outfit into extinction. His next, more soloist project, Sunset released seven or so psychedelic-pop albums based on grandiose concepts like an imagined film and a music-video album.
While critically praised, Autobus Records, the label backing most of those Sunset releases, went defunct in 2011, and it seems the project has stopped with it. That's not such a big deal, since Baird has now released 10 or so albums and compilations under his own name over the past decade on a variety of mediums with different artistic intentions, from ambient drone and spoken word to orchestral folk. Words like "eclectic" and "eccentric" don't quite capture his oeuvre, as seen in the dozens of hand-numbered, hand-made, self-bootlegged vinyl records, cassettes and videos he has produced.
Case in point, Baird's new album, released this March on Pau Wau Records. Spring Break of the Soul is touted as a bit of "Samuel Beckett meets Pee Wee Herman meets Captain Beefheart meets lush dreamlife." It's a sprawling double LP, made especially unique with a 32-page book, full-colour sheet music, and a copy of a script Baird wrote for an unrealized movie. He apparently took two years to make this record, which is usually enough time for him to make several albums, so it feels as though there is a little bit extra to it, though it stylistically fits with the lo-fi psych trajectory of his last couple records.
Baird's latest video, put together while he works toward an MFA in Electronic Music at Mills, "Go to Mexico" sees him "Dreaming of Mexico. From deepest winter indoors soulless carpet fluorescent lit windowless room." It feels otherworldly to watch it, like an outtake from Videodrome. Its tape-worn effects and layers of Baird don't seem to be entirely contained by their frame.