Baba Stiltz

Paid Testimony

12″ Vinyl LP comes with Full Cover Inside/Out

When he‘s not writing or recording, Baba Stiltz immerses in fearless fiction by the likes of Denis Johnson and Dodie Bellamy; prose where pedestrian details become transcendent in aggregate and the inner lives of marginal characters are examined as though they were kings. A similar thesis runs through „Paid Testimony“, the essential second tape of minimalist guitar music from the Filipino-American-Swedish artist.In recent years, Stiltz has made like Lee Hazelwood‘s Cowboy In Sweden in reverse, making annual pilgrimages from Stockholm to California and reconnecting with his roots via a guitar and a Fostex 4-track. He‘s drawn to the less glamorous corners of the golden state, an observant habitué of unkempt streets and dive bars stretching from LA to Vacaville. It‘s a long stretch from the jetset techno clubs where Baba originally plied his musical trade, but it‘s where he finds characters and ideas worth writing about.The characters on „Paid Testimony“ are on the edge and on the run. Surrounded by flawed men with big schemes since childhood, he extrapolates characters who plot bank heists and order milk and vodka in AM hours, the type of confrontation-prone characters who „say some shit, make everyone uncomfortable and then just split.“ To focus on the rawness of this document would discount the humor and sympathy with which he treats his characters, not to mention the subtly-psychedelic songwriting recalling David Berman, early Smog, the original indie rock minimalist poets.On the final song, Stiltz looks back on the city that raised him, „Stockholm,“ referencing „young professionals carelessly living“ before adding „I can‘t say I‘m not jealous even though I live my life just like they do.“ There‘s an honesty in the small details revealed on „Paid Testimony“, and a defined sense of place, be it Stockholm, Sacramento or some dim barroom across from the Bank Of America. Baba doesn‘t quite fit in anywhere. This outsider quality has often been used as a marketing tool, yet here, it lends a writerly aspect to the proceedings, an unreality to the everyday.

Text Matt McDermott