Ka Baird by Marcia Bassett

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today it’s Ka Baird, a founder member of the Chicago experimentalists Spires That In The Sunset Rise, who then went onto release two records as Sapropelic Pycnic – the improvised piano album “See Sun Think Shadow” on Brooklyn’s Perfect Wave and the Coltrane tribute A Love Supreme on Chicago’s No Index in 2016.

She’s now about to release her first album as Ka Baird and neatly it’s named after her previous alter-ego “Sapropelic Pycnic” and it’s on the aces Drag City Records (home of Royal Trux).

New folk, avant-garde, cerebral and lush, hypnotic world music, it’s a little bit Alice Coltrane but a lot like you’ve never heard before. And we wondered what Ka had heard lately, so here’s her pleasingly esoteric “song for ewe”…

“I have forever been interested in vocal music and extended technique but after hearing this one track off the Musique du Burundi issued in 1968 from the French label Ocora called Akazehe I have been relentlessly pursuing it. I had the opportunity to see Joan La Barbara perform in an Artists-In-Residence Alumni Collaboration with Audrey Chen and Miguel Frasconi last year at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room and have been going back into her catalog ever since.

This was her first official release and has since become iconic as one of the first examples of an official release of extended vocal techniques in experimental music. The album was reissued by Arc Light Editions last year. The microtones and textures of this piece are astounding. Joan La Barbara writes “I vocally painted the sparkling night sky above the California coastline, juxtaposing shooting stars with other-worldly sounds in a galactic storm. I recorded and engineered the work myself in the seldom-used analog studio at IRCAM in Paris.”

Joan La Barbara October Music: Star Showers and Extraterrestrials from 1976 Voice Is the Original Instrument: Early Works originally released on Wizard Records and later reissued on Arc Light Editions


“Sapropelic Pycnic” is out on 22nd September