The last time I checked in with Aidan Baker, he was in the middle of an insanely prolific streak of ambient releases, with his I Fall Into You album sticking out amongst them, grabbing my ear with a keen sense of development and pure texture. Since then, he has apparently decided to shake free of any sort of labels that anyone could put on him and started up a crushing, doom metal project under the name Nadja, which has also kept him fairly busy, putting out several albums and split releases in a short period of time while also continuing his ambient ways. Along the way, he added member Leah Buckareff, and apparently shows no signs of slowing down.
Guilted By The Sun is the very first release on the new Elevation Recordings label, which was started by musician Joe Greenwald and hockey player (!) Boyd Devereaux as a way to showcase their favorite psyche/noise/heavy artists in limited quantity. This particular release is limited to 2,000 copies, and having not heard previous work by Nadja I can honestly say that this is some of the more compelling doom-style stuff I have heard in some time.
I guess it should come as no surprise given my liking of Baker's work, but it's not like ambient can always scale up into louder music without a hitch. Here, it drops like a ton of bricks, as "Guilted" opens things with a punishing ten minutes of molasses-slow riffage that bleeds the meters with overtones that are somehow kinda lovely at the same time. Baker adds some chanting vocals as well, and while they're just barely on the side of not being over-the-top, the creepy groans add to the ultra-heavy first half before the second second blows out the cobwebs with a stomping beat and sheets of noisy feedback.
The final three tracks of the release ("By," "The," and "Sun" respectively) all vary between crushing slabs of massively textural guitar and more open sections of quiet ambience that allow things to breath a bit. Over the course of just under a half hour in running length, the duo keep things interesting by collapsing black-hole guitars into quiet smoldering pools of reversed notes, while in other places pile-driving a crescendo until it sounds like the levels are completely burying the needles at all levels. Like most doom releases, this one isn't going to pull any big surprises out of the hat, but it does pack quite a punch in a short running length. A good start for a new label.