Two experimental heavies unite as Azha

Former Madisonians Kathleen Baird and Andrew Fitzpatrick release their first collaborative recording, Celestial Meadows.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, left, and Kathleen Baird.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, left, and Kathleen Baird.

This week Tone Madison is catching up with some of Madison's creative expats—starting yesterday with William Z. Villain. This week also sees the release of Celestial Meadows, Kathleen Baird (Spires That In The Sunset Rise) and Andrew Fitzpatrick's (Noxroy, Volcano Choir, All Tiny Creatures, Bon Iver) first recording under the name Azha. The two recorded the collaboration in Madison in winter 2014, before Baird moved to New York City last fall and Fitzpatrick moved to Eau Claire this summer.

Celestial Meadows comprises a single, continuous 37-minute track that channels Baird's layers of flute and wordless vocals through Fitzpatrick's software processing, alongside some textural synthesizers from Fitzpatrick. The result is disorienting but also strangely warm and welcoming—the digital manipulation is subtle enough to bleed into, rather than bleed away, the organic character of breath and voice. While it's improvised and—typical of both Baird and Fitzpatrick's other work—dispenses with easily identifiably rhythm, there's a great deal of restraint and melodic cohesion in the piece. I guess I shouldn't be surprised—it's a pretty natural collaboration between two musicians with a gift for stepping out into the unknown and keeping their wits about them in the process.

Baird has had a busy year since moving away, co-launching the Perfect Wave label, releasing a solo-piano record under the name Sapropelic Pycnic, and releasing the latest full-length from Spires with still-Madison-based collaborator Taralie Peterson. Fitzpatrick has quietly been working on new solo material, played synth and guitar with Bon Iver at this summer's Eaux Claires festival, and will play a Noxroy set on January 7 at the High Noon. (Full disclosure: That show is organized and headlined by Tone Madison contributor Joel Shanahan.)

Stream Celestial Meadows below, via Azha's Bandcamp page. Perfect Wave is also offering the release in a limited-edition cassette.