Mama’s got a brand new bag

Prolific Winnipeg musician Chris Mama Bauer goes solo and creates his own Universe of Horrors

Don’t let the mask fool you: Chris Bauer is not the villain in the next Spider-Man movie. The local experimental garage rocker and American Flamewhip co-founder released his first solo effort, A Universe of Horrors, last fall.

In ’50s fiction, the idea of UFO movement was unnatural to pilots and scientists of the day because of their proposed ability to stop on a dime and make 90 degree turns: sharp angles taken at high speeds with no regards to Newton’s first law of motion.

When an artist veers sharply off of his trajectory, he often risks losing the people following him, unable to make that turn, often alienating the audience as a result.

For prolific local musician Chris Mama Bauer, though, A Universe of Horrors, his first full solo release, is not a true 90 degree turn.

This 19-track disc, released by local label Transistor 66, is a compilation of Bauer’s musically savant ticks recorded over the past 15 years.

The result is a far cry from his best known role as multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in local garage rock band American Flamewhip, a project he co-founded with Winnipeg hard rock diva Joanne J-Rod Rodriguez five years ago.

With Horrors, Bauer treads curiously closer in structure to the audio-brutality of his first band, Stagmummer, one of the greatest Winnipeg heavy rock bands of the last 20 years, which disbanded in 2001.

For years Bauer has been the go-to guy in the city for those wanting a heavy hitter with solid timing, playing hired gun on over two dozen local projects.

With such a busy schedule, this creatively hyperactive individual always left an outlet for himself.

The result is over 15 years of “Sun Ra inspired jazz and B-Movie Horror/Science Fiction soundtracks,” said Bauer. He will present a photo-essay reflecting on Horrors at the Winnipeg Art Gallery at next Thursday’s 15 Minutes at the WAG.

Bauer promised an in-depth look at four of the 18 custom photo manipulations created for each track on the album, which he personally authored.

“Putting my own visual component [on each track] served the project better. In fact, it ended up expanding the scope of the project,” Bauer said.

“I needed the artwork and I didn’t want to afford it or have to explain my vision so I decided to do it myself: learn the program and begin forming the vision on my own.”

The result is stunning and bewildering, not unlike the strange sounds contained on the album itself.

“Doing it myself, I added my final stamp. I enjoyed learning [the software] and doing the manipulations.”

Follow Bauer’s UFO-like journey if you will, March 18 at the WAG.

Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)

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