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I showed up to the office today to discover that Publisher, Bob Boone, had decided to clean my desk and threw out the pile of roughly 300 CDs that I had lying around. Luckily I just received in the mail the 23rd installment of “The Whales They Weep,” an ongoing project by Benjamin Baxter that he started in 1980. According to the liner notes, Baxter studied Marine Biology at The University of Iowa for one year and then decided that his work would be better spent creating awareness about sea life. Baxter credits his music as being responsible for the International Whaling Commission’s 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling and also Australia’s recent bid to ban Japan’s Antarctic whaling program that has just been upheld by the International Court of Justice. “I have spent over 30 years honing my skills as a musician to tell the world about these majestic creatures, and the world is waking up because of my dedication,” notes Baxter.
According to the liner notes, all of the lyrics on the album deal with the “pain of the whales who have suffered centuries of whaling.” The first track titled, “Waves of Red,” begins with unmistakable tape hiss and then a slow beat that sounds like a pre-set beat from a cheap keyboard comes in. The only thing I can really liken the music to is what one might expect from a Cinemax soft-core porno except even more cheesy and repetitive. Everything from the synth violin, bass and piano sounds like it must have been made on a keyboard purchased at Kmart or maybe a garage sale. The mix is unbearably harsh and the never ending electronic beat which never changes sits well above everything. After five minutes, the sounds of whales come in. It’s almost a relief to hear them come in, but if I’m not mistaken, it’s a 30 second long whale sample that keeps repeating over and over. After ten minutes there still are no lyrics and I started skipping ahead on the 20 minute song and realized that the first track must just be an instrumental.
On the second track, “Harpooned Through the Heart,” it stays consistent as there is still tape hiss but this time there is an intermittent crackling sound. A different beat that is even more minimal and cheap sounding than the one from the first song comes in and that’s the only thing going on for the first minute. Finally some synth brass and organ come in and this time it sounds like a mix of cheesy porno and circus music, I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything like it. The whale sounds come in and then they start to get pitch shifted, poorly. The incessant beat sits uncomfortably over the repetitive mix of sub-par keyboard sounds and confusing created whale melody lines. Again, I started skipping through the 17 minute long track to see if there are any lyrics and there were none.
After the second track, I decided to skip through to see if there were any songs that didn’t sound either like really bad new age or porno music or if there were any lyrics at all on the album. I realized that there was another set of liner notes in the sleeve and under each track title there were long stretches of letters such as, “eeeeeeoooh ooooooowwwwoooo waaaaahhhhhrrrroooom oooohhhhaaaaaaoooooaw.” It turns out I was right about the first song just being a 30 second sample because the patterns of various written out whale noises in the “lyrics” repeat over and over.
While this album is certainly original, I’d hate to hear what Baxter’s earlier material sounds like since this album was probably one the most weird and uncomfortable listening experiences I’ve ever had. But perhaps this is what Baxter intended. It’s possible he was being ironic and making one of the harshest easy listening new age albums ever to show us the pain of the whales. I’m also wondering how he knows what the whales are singing about and am questioning if his music has had as much of an influence on international policy as he thinks it has. The address he sent the CD from is from Iowa.