Carola Baer The Story Of Valerie

Concentric Circles
3rd March 2022

Format Info


Emotionally charged, sustained digi strings accompany a plaintive, spectral voice seeping from under a Lynchian bedroom door. Part hidden, ghostly, a preternatural glow shines wanly over a dark landscape. Welcome to the haunted world of Carola Baer and her songs recorded to a single cassette tape and then lost for 25 years. Raw but in possession of some incredible, instinctive talent, Baer’s songs are often synth and vocal affairs that are immediately arresting, like a shadow Space Lady or ghostly, goth Bridget St. John beholden to late 80s consumer electronic synthesizers. This stuff is like nectar to us in Monorail.

The discovery of a cassette of Carola Baer’s early ’90s private home recordings was like finding a needle in a haystack. Made as a one-off mixtape of newly-recorded songs, and given to a long-since forgotten recipient, this cassette was found in 2017 at a Goodwill “bins” location in Portland, Oregon. These chaotic, by-the-pound thrift stores contain thousands of unsorted items in constant flux, which are only available for the public to buy for a limited time before they are discarded. The prospect that this obscure relic would be rescued from its untimely fate is nothing short of a miracle.

As this tape was the only one in existence, with no back up versions of many of the songs, it’s more than likely that this music would have been lost forever. The Story Of Valerie is made up of songs culled from that cassette, with a few additional tracks from the time, and is the first time Carola Baer’s solo material has been heard by the public. The intense emotion of the music is brought upon by the primary themes of the album: the cruelty of humanity, isolated life as a British immigrant in the US, and the pain of doomed relationships. Despite being inspired by classic 4AD acts like Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins, Baer’s home recordings have a sound and style that is uniquely her own. Many of the tracks feel like musical exorcisms, with Baer’s spine tingling voice soaring above minimal arrangements for Yamaha DX-7 and Casio CZ-101 synthesizers. Like finding a stranger’s diary, the listener is granted access to music that is emotionally raw and deeply personal.

Carola Baer moved to San Francisco in the 80s from her native London to work with art rock group Process. Simultaneously she worked on the songs that would become The Story Of Valerie, a collection of at-times perilously raw songs informed by classic goth-era 4AD Records, Philip Glass, Angelo Badalamenti’s work with David Lynch and the minimalist synth work of John Carpenter. What sets the music apart from being minimal synth by numbers is the pervading presence of Baer’s vocal, smeared as it is by the patina of reverb and time erosion.

The Story Of Valerie has been pressed onto vinyl by Portland’s Concentric Circles in an edition of 500. What a discovery.