Mike Baggetta / Mike Watt / Jim Keltner - Wall of Flowers

Label: Big Ego Records, 2019

Personnel - Mike Baggetta: electric and acoustic guitars, live processing; Mike Watt: electric bass; Jim Keltner: drums, percussion.

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Mike Baggetta may not be as well known as his fellow guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder, but his creative playing is definitely a valuable discovery for everyone who bumps into his music. An adept of unconventional sounds and electronic effects, Baggetta was previously featured in solo, quartet, and trio sessions, and it’s precisely to the latter configuration that he returns on the album Wall of Flowers. This time, he is joined by unlikely bandmates such as veterans Mike Watt and Jim Keltner, bassist and drummer, respectively. The former co-founded the punk-rock group Minutemen and was a member of Iggy Pop’s The Stooges in the early 2000s; the latter played with the members of The Beatles plus Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. The two had never met before, but the outcome of this one-day-only session mirrors the quality of these musicians.

Hospital Song” has a beautiful, if dismal, acoustic guitar intro. However, the trio kicks things into high gear by channelling their energy into a livelier indie rock marked by sturdy bass lines, an unflinching straight-up 4/4 rhythm, and guitar melodies punctuated by occasional atonal detours.

Blue Velvet”, the main theme of David Lynch’s cult film of the same name, is subjected to solo and duo treatments. Both have the rustic tones of the acoustic guitar coloring them, yet the former picks up on an undeniable ambiguity in contrast with the latter, soberly introduced by Keltner's soft brushwork.

A couple of collective improvisations reflect some of the best moments on the album. “I Am Not A Data Point” feels very experimental, relying on an intransigent, languid bass ostinato a-la Rage Against The Machine, percussive adaptability, and distorted guitar outcries that affect positively our ears with washes of capricious effects in often discordant audacity. The other impromptu experience is “Dirty Smell of Dying”, a dark, neo-psychedelic exercise carried in Sonny Sharrock-mode, and where the massive waves of sound coming toward you acquire both exciting and foreboding perspectives.

Fruit of Baggetta’s mind, the title track closes out the album as a shimmering art rock song. Musical moments like these demonstrate the trio’s rock affinity and the album is the expression of a fortunate collaboration.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
04 - I Am Not A Data Point ► 06 - Dirty Smell of Dying ► 08 - Wall of Flowers