Since the year 2000, the Silber Records label, which specializes in drone, ambient, and experimental recordings, has made an effort to put out some sort of special release or series of releases around the winter holidays. Following a number of Christmas-themed compilation albums, the label released a half dozen or so extended plays from different artists to commemorate the holiday season in 2014. The first of which was produced by North Carolina’s Baptizer, product of self-described “mental patient-turned militant survivalist” and musician Jim Baptizer.
Given the unsettling and almost apocalyptic quality of his music, I was somewhat surprised to learn about Baptizer’s sincere interest in religion, though anyone vaguely familiar with the Bible knows that there’s plenty of unsettling and apocalyptic passages in it. It’s somewhat unfortunate that most people who think of religious music (myself included) typically tend to picture stuff of the “Kumbaya” singalong variety these days: religious music can take the form of any number of things and honestly, I find Baptizer’s brand of contemplative and hypnotic music to be much more spiritually satisfying than any number of traditional/conventional hymns or songs of praise.
Baptizer’s Nativity EP certainly falls in the category of being hypnotic, made up of two tracks built around almost industrial background sound. The opening track here is entitled “The Demons of Herod Hunt in Vain,” which references the futile search initiated by the reigning King of Judea when he learned of the imminent birth of Christ. As might be expected given that framework, the track is harsh and menacing, with grating, staticky noise standing as its primary element for much of its run time. Snippets of what seems to be a religious monologue peek through the gurgling noise elements, and towards the end of the piece, much warmer and more optimistic sound elements bubble to the surface. These brighter motifs suggest the sense of hope offered by the actual birth of Christ, since Herod’s men were unable to track down and eliminate him.
The thirteen-minute title track similarly makes a transition from being cold and unnerving at its start to seeming more inviting by its conclusion. Early on, the piece is very earthy, with sounds of birds chirping and a baby making its first onomatopoeic sounds heard over piercing, metallic accents. Later on, more resonant droning sounds gurgle out of the background and give the track a poignant, almost regal feel, and it finishes with a section that’s reminiscent in sound to the trumpeting choruses heard in many classical pieces of religiously-inspired music. To me, “Nativity” reflects the Virgin Mary coming to terms with the birth of the Christ Child. Though she must have been reluctant or even afraid when first hearing the prophecies relating to her divinely-guided son, the track seems to capture Mary’s acceptance of his destiny and her place in the ongoing story. Even if the track isn’t especially melodic or even musical at times, it’s quite peaceful and calming, positioning the listener in a nice, relaxed space.
In all likelihood, this is not what would come to mind when most people imagine religious music, yet Baptizer’s Nativity EP seems to embody many ideas and themes related to the actual birth of Christ – not the consumer-friendly Christmas holiday that we are more familiar with today. I found this to be an extremely well-crafted and almost inspiring release that prompts the listener to go on a voyage of introspection and self-discovery. Honestly, that’s about as outstanding a holiday gift as any music could provide, and I’d recommend this relatively brief EP to those willing to approach it with an open mind.