Michael Baker is certainly not a new artist. He’s not even new to Your EDM as we’ve featured his group Head Fake and their new wave style before. However, Baker’s new solo project, Hasten Mercy, is new and more EDM-oriented. With the first EP These things laced with Happy Mondays-style rave pop, heavier, future bass/dubstep vibes, and loads of ambient sound design and synth work, it sounds like Baker is testing the waters for his breakout solo style.
With an obvious love for early electronica as evidenced by Head Fake, the lead track on Baker’s first Hasten Mercy brings it out “Star You Are”, a 90s British poptronics-inspired romp whose main piano and synth work is so’ a tribute to Mondays. ‘ “Step On” that you might even mistake Baker for a much more melodic and less psychedelic Shaun Ryder. The content of the lyrics is also a lot more uplifting and inclusive. It’s an interesting opener, but certainly bridges the gap well from the new wave of Head Fake to the more modern tracks on These things.
After “Star You Are” follows “I Break Everything”, the much more introspective and self-mockery but also more modern pop song in ballad style with a lot of drone and ambient synth work behind the soft digital organ that drives the vocal melody. From “I Break Everything” it becomes clear that the tracks on These things are thematically, if not musically connected. The lyrics of “Star You Are” are so expansive next to those of “I Break Everything” which comes back to Earth and expresses the difficulty with relationships and the fear of emotional intimacy despite that extensive philosophical capacity. How do you reconcile macro and mirco? Very few of us are true masters. Baker’s vocals in these songs don’t pretend to solve this problem; just hope others can understand.
These things also closes with the title track the most EDM-heavy track, and the relationship and theme of the EP becomes even more apparent. The barely audible backing drone synth from “I Break Everything” transitions into “These Things” and takes a more prominent role. Still pop in the sense that it’s composed with the lyrics as the driving force, “These Things” showcases Baker’s mastery of synth and sound design, this track would fit right in with a rave if break music begging to be remixed. Also quite introspective and focused on the pendulums and arrows of social interaction, the difficulties connecting with others and the need to connect despite fear and nervousness is something even the most extroverted social butterflies can definitely relate to after two years of isolation.
The circle is far from complete, but Baker’s lyrical observations These things have no response despite the expansive tone of “Star You Are.” Rather, they are a continuation of not just Hasten Mercy’s, but of the collective dialogue about all the different facets of being human. As we enter the new year and the possible third year of COVID, it’s good to remember that everyone is reconciling the vast with the grounded, the sublime with the worldly. It’s a strange ride that humanity takes, but it’s also somehow noble. These things are everyone’s things, and the point could just be the journey, so we might as well explore them.
These things is out now and can be streamed on Spotify. Check out Head Fake’s YouTube for more synths and videos.