Baker Ja Lehtisalo – Crocodile Tears
Cruel Nature Records
Release Date: 30/06/23
Running Time: 52:45
Review by Dark Juan
Good afternoon from the bleak and grim North of England, where at the moment the sun is cracking the flagstones and ginger people are in danger of spontaneously combusting under the relentless rays of the radiation factory in the sky. Most of West Yorkshire is hiding because the firmament is an unfamiliar blue colour that none of the denizens of these fine lands are used to and also the big bright thing in the sky is somewhat concerning to folk who are used to living under a comforting cover of grey clouds and fairly omnipresent drizzle. There are upsides to this: girls in their summer dresses and not much else, girls in yoga pants so tight you can read their lips, and plenty of beer in the fridge because you need to keep refreshed with such outlandish temperatures. Downsides have also occurred, however, and Dark Juan (who is writing this crouched in a sliver of shadow in Crow Cottage where the colossal fusion fireball in the so-called heavens CAN’T GET ME) is upset by the fact that there are more attractive men than him flaunting their vigorous torsos. This is unacceptable because Dark Juan is the undisputed Sex Fuhrer around these parts. Not even Zodiac Mindwarp and his Psychotropic Love Commandos come close. There has also been a commensurate increase in FUCKING DICKHEADS indulging in vehicular dickheadery in their stupid bog-standard shopping trolleys that they have welded drainpipes to. Sowerby Bridge sounds like the fucking OK Corral at night at the minute due to twats in their Vauxhall Corsas ruining their engine compression ratios with humongous exhausts that an entire Moldovan family could live in QUITE COMFORTABLY banging, cracking and fizzing whenever they come off the accelerator. Dark Juan’s entreaty to the local Town Council that the townsfolk capture the meatsacks driving them and sacrifice them, after hamstringing them so they can’t run away, and their stupid fucking cars to the great One Who Walks Backwards by immolating them with cleansing fire on the bank of the canal near the Tuel Lane Lock has been met with an uncomfortable, shuffling silence and people unaccountably sprinting for the door.
Baker Ja Lehtisalo is a collaboration between Najda’s Aidan Baker and Jussi Lehtisalo of Circle and Pharoah Overlord. These two gentlemen started trading sounds over the internet in 2020, and these fragments of keyboard melodies, esoteric basslines and multi-tracked, textured guitars slowly coalesced into the music Dark Juan is currently subjecting his brainspace to via the medium of the neon-soaked Platter Of Splatter ™. If you’re looking for out and out violence you will not find it here. Instead, you will find heartbreak and sorrow dragged out over extended lengths of time. Atavistic howls of emotional pain are musically replicated on pieces like ‘Neon Splashing (From Your Eyes)’ as (and this is entirely what images the music conjures in my head, which is never a comfortable experience for you, dear reader) your lover parts from you for the last time in the Shinjuku, the neon smearing in your vision as tears start to flow and your loved one slowly fades into the crowd to become indistinguishable from every other body and soul in there, you being part of the press of humanity also, but somehow being alienated, separate from them as your grief and sorrow cuts through your soul like the coldest of blades, your heart freezing solid with needles of agony as yet the city still whirls around you and your little cocoon of profound stillness and sorrow, and the lights still glow and music still throbs in your chest cavity and the people around you still laugh and smile with garishly, terrifyingly painted faces and all you can do is run, failing to hide your tears and your shame from them all, longing to escape back to the fraught stillness of your rooms and their all-covering darkness and seclusion…
‘Face-Off’ is different again – gentle, washing keyboards and a soothing melody give way around the 7-minute mark to a savage and uncompromising wall of distorted and fuzzed up sound through which the central melody has to penetrate – as if that melody is your desire for life slowly emerging from the black shell of hatred and misanthropy you have encased yourself within after suffering some appalling emotional trauma.
No, Mrs Dark Juan and I haven’t split up, although the inflatable kayak she has just bought might change that. It’s just that Baker Ja Lehtisalo occupy a very odd place in the musical spectrum – Imagine, if you please, French alternative popsters Air and their openness to new sounds if they were being miserable, and Portishead, and the aching, febrile, emotional quality their music had and meld it to the cold-eyed fury and aching sorrow of Industrial GODS Godflesh and the all-encompassing walls of noise that Chapterhouse were so fond of creating, and you have the sound of this most unique of bands. The best way I can describe it is… is… is…
I don’t fucking know. This album is deeply idiosyncratic and utterly without compare. I can safely say I have heard nothing like this before.
Industrial Shoegaze? IndustiDrone? Emo Industrial? Experimental ShoeDrone? New Wave Industrial Doom? Godflesh meets Garbage and Jan Hammer? Fuck knows, so we will attempt (all four of my known personalities, anyway) to break down the sound…
Poppy, scintillating keyboards interact with driving and multi-layered basslines to unusual effect, designed to jar and distort in the listener’s experience, and the guitar work has so many levels of texture you could remove every other piece of instrumentation and leave just the guitars and this record would still sound complete. The percussion exists to drive the emotional component along, yet the record sounds achingly cold-hearted, like that moment of hatred you have towards an ex, where you have had to harden your heart just to be able to function, yet for a brief moment, within the sorrow, you realise you have been wronged and that cool flame of sorrow suddenly turns into a raging conflagration of all-consuming fury. Baker Ja Lehtisalo are the musical exploration of that cold fire of the soul, and they draw out the blades of that emotion along your skin in a disturbingly expert fashion.
Needless to say, Dark Juan fucking loves it. The amalgam of poppy, Synthwavey synths and crushing walls of distorted noise is intoxicating in the extreme and yet that horrible to experience, yet utterly compelling sadness and rage is… irresistible. Like a slow-motion car crash, you can’t help but watch. You can’t help but EXPERIENCE it.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Patentoitu Dark Juan -veriroiskeluokitusjärjestelmä hyville suomalaisille ystävillemme) has finally emerged from the dank corner of the cottage to which it fled upon hearing the music of Baker Ja Lehtisalo and has timidly awarded 9/10 for the record. One mark was removed because this record, although seminal in its own way, will not get the audience it should have because of its singular uniqueness. It is a challenging listen (especially when your opening cut is 14:27 long!) but it is a fucking worthwhile one.
01. (And I Want Your Perfect) Crocodile Tears
02. I Wanna Be Your Bête Noire
03. Neon Splashing (From Your Eyes)
05. Racing After Midnight
Aidan Barker – Everything
Jussi Lehtisalo – Everything
(As this isn’t a full time band and was more of a collaboration, I have just given the purchase link to the album via Cruel Nature Recordings as the two people comprising this entity do not have an online presence for it.)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.