Kurt Baggaley is a techno producer born for the Bandcamp age. His Discogs page lists 40 albums — that’s just albums and that’s just those under his main Scape One alias alone. They might all be killer or stuffed with filler but we’ll have to share and compare our notes together because there’s no one else alive that can even pretend to have heard all of it.
The good thing about this musical profligacy is that DJs always seem to be stumbling over his tracks months or even years later — a phenomenon that’s almost gone extinct during our era of One Day Wonders and Beatport chart supremacy. Contrary to other producers with a similarly prolific nature, Baggaley’s discography isn’t composed primarily of beat tracks or royalty-free loops pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. He has a genius for composing melodies that stick with you, that get inside your head. That’s what first attracted me to his music — the Line of Sight EP on the (apparently defunct) Stem released in 2013. The remix by Legowelt got the gawks but the title track had a hook that was pure beauty — a six note melody so irresistible it stuck in your head with the persistence of an advertising jingle scientifically formulated to do so.
Cosmic Trax is not Baggaley’s latest — the album was released in February, but to give you an idea of how this guy works, he’s already released two more albums since then. Published under his Scape One alias, it’s a deceptively low-tech but high-concept album of electronic sutras, analog anthems and music for movies that exist only in Baggaley’s head. Baggaley calls the music on the 11 track LP “electro rhythm trax” and the list of dedications (to Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland, and with “special thanks” to the company and synth, drum machine and sampler pioneers Dave Smith, Roger Linn “and the Willesden Dodgers” which I assume is some incomprehensible British thing) gives a clue as to the utensils of creation utilized here. The title track was well selected: “Cosmic Jam” leads off with the unmistakable sizzle of 808 beats lured in, embraced and then enveloped by synth waves like some beautiful but predatory flower. It sets the tone for a distinctly retro-futuristic vibe that I love. It’s not the music of the environment I live in but the one I’d like to be.
It is really hard to rank the tracks on here. Cosmic Trax doesn’t flow with the organic continuity of a typical electronic album but there is a unity of sound from the carefully selected palette, and Baggaley’s skill in arrangement and crafting those memorable instrumental hooks means you can pick one his tracks out from others in a heartbeat. “Inshore Mapping” is a short 4 minutes but feels longer — in that time it masterfully sets a mood, shatters the ambiance and builds it back up into something new. Listening to this and the brilliant transcendence of “Made Sense” and “Time Flight” made me realize that despite the cynicism of this era — the little gaggles of industry wankers in Slack and Discord channels who believe there’s nothing new, nothing beautiful, nothing left to make us dream — there are still relatively “undiscovered” geniuses out there, and I think I just heard one.
And it’s one for this era. I love the idea of these countless number of tracks on a dissociative blur of albums just lying in wait, gathering digital cobwebs on one of Bandcamp’s servers until some dredgers of the new world crash the vault to jailbreak them. This album has three thematically related tracks designed as signposts for them: “Cosmic Jam” (at the beginning), “Cosmic Beats” (in the center) and “Cosmic Journey” at the end. It’s appropriate. Despite what they’ve told you, the journey isn’t the reward, but it’s necessary to get one.
Scape One: Cosmic Trax LP (February 2020 / Digital)
1. Scape One: Cosmic Jam (06:42)
2. Scape One: Macola (06:17)
3. Scape One: Radiometry (04:22)
4. Scape One: Hyperbolix (04:16)
5. Scape One: It’s Not About Your Pleasure (04:40)
6. Scape One: Cosmic Beats (06:07)
7. Scape One: Inshore Mapping (04:12)
8. Scape One: Boom Town (04:48)
9. Scape One: Made Sense (06:00)
10. Scape One: Time Flight (04:59)
11. Scape One: Cosmic Journey (04:21)