Alien of Nature is the recording project of solo artist Mike Baran of Northern California. His new album Motion In Time features songs mostly written during the pandemic and explores the “challenges and epiphanies” experienced during the lockdown.
Baran started constructing songs on Logic with two close friends at his Mom’s east coast home. However, through a series of fortuitous connections, Baran wound up recording the album at Little Radios and Bones and Wire studios in Minneapolis, with mixing at Sound Dweller in Denver and mastering at Resonant Mastering in Seattle. Though Baran plays most instruments, he is assisted by Richard Medek (drums), Canner Price (pedal steel), Dan Lawn (cello), Josh Misner (violin) and Patti King (backing vocals). Baran’s coproducer on the album was Chris Koza, who also helped bring the early songs together.
“Don’t Be Afraid” starts off with a surprise, as the chords and instrumentation hint that this is going to be a remake of Linda Rondstadt’s “Different Drum.” However, it quickly veers into more original territory. Baran has a pleasing pop rock voice without drawing undo attention to himself, and it’s a voice especially tailored for harmonies. His arrangements do recall the pop ’60s with a foot in psychedelia. He doesn’t list it, but I could swear I could hear an electric autoharp in there somewhere, as well as a harpsichord.
“Catch The Wind” is not the Donovan tune, but the vocals and guitars do recall the Beatles. The tracks here are purposely a bit distorted, recalling the garage rock classics of yore. Spacey lyrics include: “Catch The Wind / You're Not Alone / Feel The Frequency / The Miracle Tone / We Come So Far We Can Not Vacate Who We Are / Oh Listen To The Sound Of Distant Star.”
“Slow Down” features all the hallmarks of Baran’s established style, but for me this song is not as good as the sum of its parts. “Canyonlands” begins with a lovely picked intro that’s soon bathed in sweet waves of Canner Price’s pedal steel. The lyrics are a bit new agey for me, but I love the rock-psychedelia groove that kicks in. The drum overdubs at the end delightfully recall the conclusion of the Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus,” a rich resource we’ve all stolen from.
“I Know You Know” begins with the lush cello and violin of Dan Lawn and Josh Misner, sounding for all the world like a string quartet. Patti King joins Baran for some simple and lovely vocals, and Baran’s expression of faith at the end is sweet and unexpected. “Sunburst” sounds like another lost ’60s pop gem, especially with the (intentional?) chorus lyrics of “It’s a beautiful day.” Really nice acoustic guitar breaks here.
“Ready To Ride” channels John Lennon with its descending piano chords, acoustic guitar and Ringo-like drums, though the vocal is a bit more Sir Paul. There’s even a mellotron sample, though nobody gets a keyboards credit on the album. “Undone” (yet another ’60s title!) has a purposely dark, off-key arrangement with Patti King sounding like Stevie Nicks or - even more appropriately - Melanie. The name “Trump” is never mentioned, but I sense some real anger here at the former Prez, written when he was still in power. A weird tune, but one of my favorites. “JrSr” is an acoustic tune with a country feel and a nice David Gilmour-style vocal.
I had a lot of fun with these songs, though it was impossible not to play “Spot The Influence” while listening. A song like “What Are We Trying To Be” works on its own terms without sounding so obviously like someone else, and I’d love to see Baran internalize his influences and develop his own style further.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook