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 previously. Baker’s new solo project, Hasten Mercy, is new, however, and more EDM-focused. 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’s testing the waters for his breakout solo style.
With a clear love for early electronica as is evidenced by Head Fake, the first track on Baker’s first Hasten Mercy release is “Star You Are,” a 90s Brit poptronica-inspired romp whose main piano and synth work is such an homage to the Mondays’ “Step On” that one might even mistake Baker for a much more melodic and less psychedelic Shaun Ryder. The content contained in the lyrics is also quite a bit more uplifting and inclusive. It’s an interesting opener, but certainly bridges the gap well from Head Fake’s new wave to the more modern tracks on These Things.
Following “Star You Are” is “I Break Everything,” the much more introspective and self-deprecating but also more modern ballad-style pop track with lashings of drone and ambient synth work behind the soft digital organ driving the vocal melody. It becomes clear from “I Break Everything” that the tracks on These Things are thematically, if not musically connected. The lyrics of “Star You Are” being so expansive juxtaposed with those of “I Break Everything” coming back down to earth and expressing the difficulty with relationships and the fear of emotional intimacy despite that expansive philosophical ability. How does one reconcile macro and mirco? Very few of us are true masters. Baker’s vocals in these tracks doesn’t pretend to solve this problem; just hopes others can relate.
These Things closes with the title track and also the most EDM-heavy track, and the relationship and theme of the EP becomes even more clear. The barely audible backing drone synth from “I Break Everything” carries into “These Things” and takes a more prominent role. Still pop in the sense that it’s composed with the lyrics being the driving force, “These Things” shows Baker’s mastery of synth and sound design, this track would fit right in at a rave as break music and is begging to be remixed. Also quite introspective and focused on the slings and arrows of social interaction, the difficulties of connecting with others and the need to connect despite anxiety and nervousness is something even the most extroverted of social butterflies can certainly relate to after two years of isolation.
Far from coming full circle, Baker’s lyrical observations in These Things have no answer despite the expansive tone of “Star You Are.” Rather, they’re a continuation of not just Hasten Mercy’s but the collective dialog about all the different facets of being human. As we roll into the new year and the possible third year of COVID, it’s good to remember everyone’s reconciling the expansive with the grounded, the sublime with the worldly. It’s a strange ride humankind is on, but it’s also somehow noble. These Things are everyone’s things, and the point might simply be the journey, so we might as well explore them.