Shortwave Broadcaster is the experimental/ambient music project of Keith Canisius Baerken. Baerken works in the realm of electronic music in the duo Astral TV, as well as in Rumskib and has released music with Darla Records as Keith Canisius. With Shortwave Broadcaster Baerken is deep diving into serious ambient vibes courtesy of heavily effected guitar. It’s a world of dense, beautifully-curated tones and sonic tranquility that acts as a sort of sensory deprivation tank. Notes and chords stretch out for miles as Shortwave Broadcaster takes us on an audible journey to realms beyond time and space. Okay, maybe not that far. But it is a musical journey.
Shortwave Broadcaster’s debut, the self-produced Afraid of Ai, was recorded at home during quarantine and it feels like an escape of sorts. Five tracks that span from 4 minutes to almost 20 minutes, these songs spread like paint on a canvas. They’re an escape from the current confines of this dystopian existence we call reality in a pandemic. What Keith Canisius Baerken has made is a sonic hall of calm. A music world where we can just melt into the background and forget, even for just under an hour, the times we’re currently living in.
The musical world here is a dense one. It’s a palate of tones and moods that stay relatively tranquil, but never tired. The songs are like soundtracks to lucid dreams. Opening track(and title track) “Afraid of Ai” is sort of the foundational and DNA strand that the rest of the album is born from. Crystalline guitars chime and repeat like endless delayed strums as they reverberate through what feels like some mystical hall in the clouds. “Unconscious” takes flight among shimmering drones and long, delayed notes. Something like the exquisite “After Hours” spreads across 18 minutes of sunny tones. It’s the kind of song you play through headphones at dusk, watching the fading light mix with the oncoming shadows of evening and imagine worlds being born in the mixture of sound and vision.
In order to truly appreciate an album like Afraid of Ai you need to learn to stop and shut down those internal engines. This is an album the requires patience from it’s participants; whether that’s sitting in the recliner in the living room, basking in a beanbag chair in the basement, or having it soundtrack an intimate conversation, Shortwave Broadcaster wants you to let this album consume you. A song like “New Phase” is both passive sounds and headier experience, all depending on you. Closing track “Where Are You?” seems to be directing that question directly at its listener. Over the course of 20 minutes it extracts the tension it comes in contact with, allowing those within its range to contemplate the world around them. This song wants to know where we are, and is it where we want to be? Long after the song ends, you’re still contemplating that. At least you should be if you’re paying attention.
It’s a fine line to tow with ambient/new age vibes. You need to balance the serene with the unknown. Too much of one could lose the listener, while too much of another will keep them at arm’s length. Shortwave Broadcaster’s Afraid of Ai is a deep and meaningful dive into heady musical waters. Keith Canisius Baerken has made an album in the confines of his home studio into something as vast and cavernous as the universe itself. At least, that’s what I hear.
What about you?
8.3 out of 10
‘Afraid of Ai’ is out now. Buy it here.