John Baker - The John Baker Tapes Volumes 1 and 2 (3 stars)

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The John Baker Tapes Volumes 1 and 2

(Trunk Records)

SOUNDTRACK

John Baker was one of three lynchpin members of the much mythologised BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 60s and 70s whose work, until this reissue on the ever oddball and reliable Trunk Records, has been overshadowed by that of his colleague Delia Derbyshire.

A musical prodigy with a troubled private life, as the extensive sleevenotes included here reveal, Baker utilised a maverick, and from our Garageband era viewpoint, preposterously methodical, tape-based sampling technique to make futuristic sounding music on demand for BBC programme theme tunes, some of which sounds uncannily like primitive Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, DJ Food or Stereolab. Elsewhere, jazz-tinged piano interludes sit alongside the retro-futuristic throbs, bleeps, plinks and plonks that more typically characterise the BBC Radiophonic Workshop sound.

Whether there’s musical value beyond the musical archaeology interest is a matter of taste, but if you’re looking for a document of audio history in the making with the whimsical atmosphere of innocent functional simplicity, this is both a great starting point and a valuable compendium alike.

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