Tag: Porcupine Tree (Page 1 of 2)

STEVEN WILSON King Ghost

“People” sang Jim Morrison, “Are Strange” and none more so than the dedicated music fan. This has been shown in the past couple of weeks with the backlash against Steven Wilson with the new single ‘King Ghost’.

This has been rumbling on for a while, in fact since ‘Permanating’ from 2017’s ‘To The Bone’, and has percolated via recent singles ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘Eminent Sleaze’ to the fury unleashed in certain quarters against this latest release online. And the thing is, the pitchfork wielding mob who want to torch the new album ‘The Future Bites’ before it is released are wrong.

“Where are the guitars?” they moan… “It needs real drums” they cry through gnashing teeth… “Isn’t what I signed up for”, they wail as they wrap themselves in their ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ blanket. The answer to this and the pages and pages of other comments is, you haven’t been paying attention.

Despite being the leader of PORCUPINE TREE all these tears, Wilson has never hidden his love of pop music, this is made all the more clear in his excellent podcast ‘The Album Years’ which he hosts with NO-MAN band mate Tim Bowness. The pointers were there on his last release, especially with the aforementioned ‘Permanating’ and, more pertinently, the brooding electronica of ‘Song of I’.

‘King Ghost’ is a natural progression, something which a recognised progressive performer should always be looking to do. The track is the sound of the artist taking himself and by extension the listener in new directions. Wilson has stated it may be one of the best things he has ever done and I have to agree.

One comment on a recent YouTube post said “…it could never be as emotional as played by analog instruments” before suggesting adding a guitar solo or fretless bass. And here we have the crux of the issue taken by some listeners; the track is synthetic so must be lesser than a full band production.

Again these folk haven’t been listening. This is by a mile the best single of the year especially when married to the stunning Jess Cope video that accompanies the release.

I have been listening with interest and a fair bit of excitement, so can’t wait until the turn of the year to hear what the delayed full album has in store, with or without a full drum kit. The tasters we have had so far promise, it will be worth the wait.


‘King Ghost’ is from the album ‘The Future Bites’ released by SW Records / Caroline Records on 29th January 2021 in limited edition deluxe boxset, CD, red or black vinyl LP, cassette, Blu-ray and digital formats, pre-order from https://store.thefuturebites.com/

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Text by Ian Ferguson
9th November 2020

NO-MAN Love You To Bits

More than a decade since their last release NO-MAN return to their more synthetic roots with the new album ‘Love You To Bits’.

The release harks back to earlier NO-MAN works such as ‘Loveblows & Lovecries’ and ‘Flowermouth’ and is bound to throw anyone more familiar with the later recorded output from Messrs Bowness and Wilson.

The mirrorball on the sleeve should give a clue to the content within, but this is not fluff piece but a work of real depth and substance.

That said, anyone who only know the band from their later output may need to triple check the credits to ensure this is the same team that brought us tracks like ‘Truenorth’. From the opening portentous drone to the 808 style percussion and arpeggios running counter to the main synthetic melody line, it’s clear this is a very different beast from the last album ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’.

One thing that has remained from that release is Tim Bowness’s melancholic vocal. Possessing one of the most distinctive voices in modern music. the delivery throughout the album is spot on. Though split into 5 sections each, ‘Love You To Bits’ and ‘Love You To Pieces’ could be viewed as 2 long form remixes which utilise differing instrumentation to add light and shade of tone to the music.

One thing that is clear is the influence of Bruno Ellingham who has been tasked with the final mix is writ large on this release. The same sparkle he gave the likes GOLDFRAPP is obvious with the separation around the instruments giving the overall pieces room to breathe.

The opening section of ‘Love You To Bits’ gets straight to the point, announcing itself as an electronic work with electronic percussion and the aforementioned vocal front and centre. Real drums explode in around halfway through and kick the piece up a gear. The first breakdown comes after the vocals exhort that they ‘Love You’ repeatedly and a short linking piece has Bowness harmonising with himself over the sequenced bass from the first section.

A funky guitar loop heralds a more down-the-line band performance which once again melds with the open sequence before part 4 goes on an extended instrumental break with effected guitar being underpinned by more live drums and that simple but earworm-y sequence. There by this time can be no mistaking this for anything else but a pop album, but one which rewards repeated listening as although simple on the surface there are layers of instrumentation that are pulled out with each play.

This is a Steven Wilson collaboration so a sonic surprise shouldn’t come as, well a surprise. Here it’s from of the closing section of ‘Love You To Bits’ which at the end, having revisited the themes and motifs of the previous section closes with a plaintiff brass section playing out like something from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ than Studio 54

The journey is at this point only half complete as the second half of the album, ‘Love You To Pieces’ opens with Bowness showing again how his voice is more than capable of carrying a song with the simplest of instrumentation to somewhere it really has no right to go. He really does possess one of the most unique tones in modern music, up there with the likes of Paul Buchanan of THE BLUE NILE in its ability to wrench at the heart without you really knowing why.

The interplay between synthetic tones and more organic instrumentation gets swept away in the next section as a driving synth bass carries a vocoded vocal forward, building into a jazzy section of effected electric piano which should give comfort to anyone that has seen Steven Wilson live recently and the playing of Adam Holzman, for it is he…

Overall the second half of the album appears to more contemplative and this is no bad thing giving balance to the ‘dancier’ opening ‘Bits’ section. All too quick, for this listener at least, it’s over with the final part coming across as something you’d here in a piano bar at 3am.

“Time was we mattered…” sighs Bowness at the close of the track. On this showing, NO-MAN still do matter and in spades. This is no misguided sidestep, the band where making music like this 25 plus years ago. In fact the bones of the album stem from demos that old.

As known progressive artists, both Wilson and Bowness have taken their individual brands of modern music in numerous different directions. This is another example of that and one expected to be included in many top 20 lists at the end of the year. A recommended release.


‘Love You To Bits’ is released by Caroline International in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats

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Text by Ian Ferguson
25th November 2019

NO-MAN Interview

Lauded by Drowned in Sound as “probably the most underrated band of the last 25 years”, NO-MAN have had a career that has stylistically covered pop, art rock and TALK TALK flavoured balladeering.

This breadth of musical output should hardly come as a surprise given the group is made up of Tim Bowness and Prog powerhouse Steven Wilson whose work has included not only his own solo output but also PORCUPINE TREE, BLACKFIELD, STORM CORROSION with OPETH’s Mikael Akerfeldt and critically acclaimed 5.1 surround remixes for acts as diverse as KING CRIMSON, XTC, MARILLION and TEARS FOR FEARS

Now more than a decade since the ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ album, NO-MAN have reconvened with a return to their electronic roots, ‘Love You To Bits’.

The cover of this release which features a disco mirrorball gives a clue to the content within, a fantastic mix of GOLDFRAPP, KRAFTWERK and ROBERT FRIPP which underpins a wonderful vocal performance from Tim Bowness who took time out to discuss the album with The Electricity Club.

‘Love You To Bits’ was one of the great ‘lost’ NO-MAN tracks, the demo being some 25 years old. Why is now the right time to finish and release it?

It was originally written at the same time as a track called ‘Lighthouse’ in 1994. Both songs were intended to be part of a follow-up to ‘Flowermouth’. At that stage, the tracks were very much in their infancy and though we had grand ideas for them, only the opening song sections existed. In another universe, the successor to ‘Flowermouth’ could have been more stylistically logical and just consisted of extended versions of those two tracks.

Due to the band getting dropped by its labels in the UK and US, publishing company and manager, we pursued the more aggressive ‘Wild Opera’ material. It suited our, by then bleak, mood better!

Over the years, we continued to work on ‘Love You To Bits’ and there were a number of versions which varied in length from 4 minutes to 12 minutes (some including significant contributions from saxophonist Theo Travis). The truth is that it didn’t seem right for anything we were working on. Post-‘Wild Opera’, the band’s sound became more organic and we’d abandoned using samples and beats, so ‘Love You To Bits’ seemed out of place for a very long time.

In October of last year, we decided that we were finally going to make the ‘Love You To Bits’ album we’d always wanted to. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to do an album length exploration of the piece and we also knew that it was going to deal with the different perspectives in a break-up. It was great to find time to make the dream a reality and truly dedicate ourselves to the project.

Does revisiting an older demo as the launch point of this project mean the album is a nostalgic look back or a taste of what’s to come?

Perhaps it’s both? A lot of the album was written over the last year and the vast majority of the recording was done this year. It was constantly being re-written and added to up to the point of completion in July of this year. As such, it feels fresh.

Listening to the earlier demos shows that it’s changed a lot since its inception. One 10 minute version from 2008 was surprisingly Industrial, while a much earlier version was considerably lighter in tone than it is now.

The sessions in October of last year were intense and exciting and I’d say that during that time we finally created a framework that seemed complete. I spent a fair bit of this year, writing new lyrics, re-writing old ones and re-recording the vocals. All the overdubs from the guest players were also recorded this year. One of my favourite sections – the brass band coda to ‘Love You To Bits’ – came about when I could hear a brass tone in the synths and suggested a far more elegiac ending that would more effortlessly merge into ‘Love You To Pieces’. Luckily, Steven really liked the idea so we pursued it. The whole process was surprisingly flexible.

‘Love You to Bits’ is a self-described return to your more synthpop roots, was there anything in particular that has lead you back down that path?

I think both of us, for different reasons, had been gravitating towards more dynamic and more electronic music in our solo projects of late.

In 2018, Steven released ‘To The Bone’ and I released an album by my pre-NO-MAN 1980s band PLENTY. Accidentally, we’d ended up in a similar creative place / space.

PLENTY was very much an electronic orientated Art Pop band that had aspects of THE BLUE NILE, IT’S IMMATERIAL and other bands of the era. Although we kept the electronic soundscapes intact, on the 2018 re-recordings I changed some of the words and vocal lines to suit my current style. It was a great fusion of the past and the present and I felt it was something of a wake-up call.

Returning to the older material challenged me in terms of my voice and my vocal expression. I hope I managed to sing with a level of control I didn’t have in the 1980s, while shaking up my current approach with a more dramatic influence from my own past. The excitement of making the PLENTY album directly fed into my 2019 solo album ‘Flowers At The Scene’. Steven co-produced the album with me and PLENTY’s Brian Hulse and also mixed it and it was while we were making ‘Flowers At The Scene’ that we decided to properly pursue ‘Love You To Bits’.

Are you wary of existing fans of both the band’s more recent works and your respective solo output being unhappy with a possibly lighter tone from a ‘pop’ album?

To a degree, yes. I’ve genuinely got no idea how people are going to react to the album. And at this stage of my music making, that’s a good thing!

It is NO-MAN’s most direct album and does have a strong Pop element, but it’s also one of our most experimental and ambitious releases. The album evolves in several ways that I don’t think would be anticipated by its beginning.

Both the music and lyrics on the album are working a great deal with contrasts: light / darkness; energy / blissful release; brutality / beauty; simplicity / complexity etc. The latter contrast highlights the fact that as an album contains some of the band’s most simple work, yet as a whole it’s perhaps NO-MAN’s most compositionally sophisticated album.

As a band you have entrusted mixing this release to Bruno Ellingham, the first time you’ve gone externally. Any particular reason for this decision?

After we finished the album, Steven did several mixes. He felt that ‘Love You To Pieces’ was very nearly complete, but that ‘Love You To Bits’ was notably short of where it should be (mainly because some of the rhythm elements and guitar processing betrayed too much of the song’s mid-1990s roots). I agreed, though the dated processing bothered me less than it did Steven.

It was looking like the album could be abandoned due to Steven starting work on his forthcoming solo album, so I suggested we bring in another mixer to fully complete what was there. Steven agreed it was a good idea.

Bruno was at the top of my list of potential mixers. His experience of working with MASSIVE ATTACK, UNKLE, BEN WATT and GOLDFRAPP seemed ideal for what we wanted and although Bruno made his name with Dance and Indie music, he actually comes from a Classical background and is an accomplished violinist. As he also shared a love of the likes of TALK TALK, THE BLUE NILE, NICK DRAKE, PINK FLOYD, GRACE JONES and TANGERINE DREAM, he felt like a very good fit.

Bruno pulled together the programmed rhythms and real drums more effectively than Steven had done and gave some of the album a greater sense of groove, space and power.

It was subtle and he didn’t overwhelm what we’d given him, but his involvement has meant that this is perhaps the best sounding NO-MAN album ever.

You are working with Carl Glover on the art for this release. How does your relationship with him work when pulling the cover concepts together?

It varies. Sometimes – on albums such as ‘Flowermouth’, ‘Returning Jesus’ and ‘Dry Cleaning Ray’ – as I do with the artwork on my solo albums, I have a very clear idea of what I want and Carl realises the idea better than I ever could. At other times, Carl comes up with ideas of his own based on his interpretation of the music. ‘Love You To Bit’s – like two of my favourite Carl covers, ‘Together We’re Stranger’ and ‘Plenty’s It Could Be Home’ – is Carl’s visual interpretation of the music. As with ‘Together We’re Stranger’, I think he’s got it right. Glamour and glitter are pitched against grim reality and that’s a fairly accurate summation of the contents.

The advances in recording technology have been significant in past decade, has this changed how you and Steven approached the writing and recording of the album?

I guess so. We’ve always kept up with technological advances in studio recording and since we started ‘Love You To Bits’, Steven’s studio mastery has grown immeasurably and I’ve created a home studio set-up that enables me to produce results of an acceptable quality.

In terms of the way we work, ‘Love You To Bits’ has been one of the most hands-on and collaborative albums in the band’s history. As with ‘Wild Opera’ and the band’s very earliest experiments in the 1980s, we spent time in the studio together and traded ideas in real time. The likes of ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ were produced quite remotely with me bringing in compositions and recordings to Steven, and Steven sending me backing tracks to write to. Of course, we NO-MAN-ised the results in both cases, but outside of us writing the song ‘Wherever There Is Light’ together in real time in 2008, ‘Love You To Bits’ marked a return to a more traditional NO-MAN way of putting music together.

The success of your online label and store Burning Shed has been gratifying from my view point as a fan of a number of the acts you work with that wouldn’t possibly have an outlet for their releases otherwise. What do you look for in an artist when deciding to work with them?

Burning Shed started off as a label that focused on releasing obscure music cost-effectively (utilising on-demand CDRs). Very quickly, the sales dictated us producing proper CDs and soon after that taking over the NO-MAN and then the PORCUPINE TREE stores.

Everything evolved unexpectedly and grew through word of mouth. Some of the artists we deal with I actively pursued as a fan (sometimes for several years), some of the artists I already knew and had worked with, and some artists approached us due to the people we were already dealing with.

The good thing about the success of Burning Shed is that it’s meant that I’ve become even more bloody minded and idealistic concerning my own music. I only ever release what I believe in and what I believe deserves to be heard in the wider world.

As for what I look for, it varies and is difficult to define.

You’ve worked with a number of musicians that readers of The Electricity Club will know such as Richard Barbieri and Brian Eno. Did these collaborations have a starting point of you being a fan of their respective outputs?

In almost all cases, yes. I’ve been extremely lucky in being able to work with a large number of musicians who were amongst my teenage heroes, ROBERT FRIPP, PHIL MANZANERA, KEVIN GODLEY, ANDY PARTRIDGE, PETER HAMMILL, IAN ANDERSON, JANSEN BARBIERI & KARN and others.

That said, the important thing is that I feel they’re able to bring something to the songs they work on and that the songs they’re working on can bring out interesting qualities in their playing. There’s no point in people collaborating for the sake of collaborating (or just for the sake of adding a star name to a recording).

You were born in Cheshire between Liverpool and Manchester. Did this geography influence you musically?

I think it probably did! There’s a particular melancholy in my music that may well be a result of my Northern English background.

Although my upbringing was relatively middle class and suburban, it was still tough. That was partly down to difficulties in my own dysfunctional family, and partly because of the harshness of the environment as a whole. It was a wonderful place to be in terms of having easy access to great cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Chester, but when I was at school there was no encouragement regarding creative endeavours and absolutely no nurturing. Family and school colleagues alike considered the idea of wanting to make music to be a case of having ‘ideas above your station’.

The positives were that both Liverpool and Manchester had very active music scenes and truly supportive music media. Radio DJs – particularly Mark Radcliffe and Roger Eagle – and newspapers (especially Mick Middles at the Manchester Evening News) were fantastically helpful to many aspiring artists, including me. For that, I remain grateful.

The Bush Hall gig in 2008 is in my personal top 10 shows. Are there any plans for live shows to support this release?

Thank you. After such a long absence from performance, it was an emotional occasion for all of us!

We have discussed the idea of playing live. If it happens, it’ll be early in 2020 and it’ll be quite different from how we last played. I imagine it to be a more radical combination of acoustic and electronic elements. It would also be interesting to see a return to us utilising backing tracks in the way we did when we first started.

NO-MAN has been an interesting and varied musical journey, what have been the highlights for you?

As it’s been so enjoyable to make, ‘Love You To Bits’ is a definite highlight. Outside of that, I still have a strong attachment to all our studio albums, but ‘Flowermouth’ and ‘Together We’re Stranger’ particularly stand out for me.

Playing in Poland in 2012 was also a great experience and in some ways, as strange as it may sound, talking to fans after the gig was the first time I realised that I’d had something of a career.


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Tim Bowness

Special thanks to Abi Skrypec at Caroline International

‘Love You To Bits’ is released by Caroline International on 22nd November 2019 in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats

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Text and Interview by Ian Ferguson
16th November 2019

RICHARD BARBIERI Variants

It may be perhaps surprising to learn that one-time JAPAN sound designer and synth technician Richard Barbieri has only released three solo albums.

However, Barbieri was always preferred the collaborative process, be it with Messrs Sylvian, Karn and Jansen, Steve Hogarth of MARILLION or as a member of PORCUPINE TREE.

But since JAPAN disbanded in 1982, he has composed and recorded a large amount of material that until recently has remained unreleased.

So the five volume ‘Variants’ series has gathered together new compositions, improvisations, live performances and re-workings of older material; “It presents a chance to put together disparate pieces of music from past and current works that wouldn’t fit easily with new album plans or concepts but which I feel deserved a release.” said Barbieri in October 2017 when the first volume was issued.

With ‘Variants.5’ having come out in the Autumn and now a double vinyl edition combining ‘Variants.1’ and ‘Variants.2’ about to be released on KScope, it continues a renaissance that has taken place in the career of Richard Barbieri since his 2017 album ‘Planets + Persona’, one that has seen him invited to join TANGERINE DREAM on stage in London, as well as playing solo concerts abroad and touring as part of LUSTANS LAKEJER in Sweden.

Bright and layered, ‘Showered In White Light’ starts ‘Variants.5’ and is almost flutey in texture.

With manipulated voice samples of regular collaborator Lisen Rylander Löve throughout the track, the building percussive tension mutates into something quite dramatic.

Performed recently with Steven Wilson at one of the PORCUPINE TREE leader’s solo Royal Albert Hall concerts, ‘New Soul 2018’ is a sparse electronic piano piece that originated as a PORCUPINE TREE improvisation initiation bookended by a thunderstorm recorded during the RAIN TREE CROW album sessions in the South of France.

Embroiled in shimmers and harmonics, ‘Run Lola’ was inspired by THE BAYS, a group that have never released a record or rehearsed, who Barbieri improvised with to showings of the film ‘Run Lola Run’. Its delicate sweeps are laced with trumpet from Luca Calabrese and reversed violin by Gill Morley, but as the hypnotic bass sequence permeates over ten minutes like classic TANGERINE DREAM, it makes for a trance inducing moment, especially as the abstract voices of Lisen Rylander Löve drop in.

‘Unholy Live 2017’ captures the original recording’s initial airy ambience although this is offset by more unsettling voices through Lisen Rylander Löve’s Soviet submarine microphone before a deep synth bass rumble, Löve’s soprano sax and Barbieri’s pulsating sequence kick in. The concluding ‘Shut Down’ is a drone piece and possibly a sign of things to come from Barbieri. Constructed during recuperation following an operation using a compact mini analogue modular set up by his bedside, it is sinister in tone and bereft of any true melody.

But the series started with ‘Variants.1’ beginning with ‘Hybrid’, a noirish track derived from the ‘Planets + Persona’ sessions and a live variation on spacey avant jazz of ‘New Found Land’ where Barbieri amusingly credits himself with “bad timing”. Melancholically piano shaped, ‘Only Passing Through’ was poignantly titled, a reflection of life in the wider context of generations. Still very much into his vintage Roland System 700 Laboratory Series, ‘Spacing Of Strands’ was based on a step sequence improvisation where the analogue module was triggered by an Arturia Beat Step Pro Sequencer.

Interestingly on ‘Variants.1’, Barbieri revisited his JAPAN days with a 2009 solo interpretation of ‘The Experience Of Swimming’, his composition which was on the B-side of ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ single from 1980, now boosted with some new counter melodic enhancement. The piece reappeared as a longer live rework on ‘Variants.4’ recorded at the St Margaret’s of Anitioch Church in Liverpool featuring a different intro, sax , trumpet, percussive loops and a coda improvisation based on ‘Nightporter’.

Indeed on ‘Variants.3’, other JAPAN related material was unveiled. The marvellous ‘Ballerina’ while new, harked back to 1982 when Barbieri was approached to commission music for the Ballet Rambert following the end of JAPAN. The resultant music was suitably ghostly with ethnic overtones and subtle electro-percussive textures offered a  ringing ambience as gentle cascading sequences circled.

And on a earthy cassette recorded timepiece recalling Brian Eno’s ‘2/2’ when the ‘1979 Rehearsal Room’ was quiet, Barbieri happily programmed and played away… also on ‘Variants.3’ and uptempo by Barbieri’s standards, ‘Vibra’ featuring the fretless bass of Percy Jones and violin by Gill Morley recalled Ryuichi Sakamoto, while with a drum machine assisted backbone and jazzier overtones, ‘Dahlia’ saw the development of another PORCUPINE TREE track written with Steven Wilson.

Containing mostly live recordings including a one-off live improvisation piece ‘Antioch’ and an extended version of ‘Hypnotek’ with an introduction echoing Jon Hassell, the highlight of ‘Variants.2’ was the lengthy ‘Frozen Hearts Of Hollywood’, a composition with orchestration potential inspired by the soundtrack of the film ‘Chinatown’ which starred Faye Dunaway.

The progressive nocturnal electronica of ‘Broken Codes’ opened ‘Variants.4’, inspired by Barbieri’s memories of listening to a transistor radio in bed as a teenager deep into the night, while largely piano based, the soothing ‘Snow Bed’ allowed room for trumpet and synths too. The appropriately titled ‘Slink’ featuring dissonant piano by Fredrik Hermansson was according to Barbieri “an oddball piece of music” came before ‘Orphan 5’, a pretty tune with a four chord progression sketched during the JAPAN days featuring the haunting monologue of Sophie Worthen.

One track that would have been an interesting inclusion is Barbieri’s live rendition of PORCUPINE TREE’s ‘Idiot Prayer’ which often finishes his shows

But over five volumes, ‘Variants’ is a fascinating journey into the thoughtful creativity of Richard Barbieri. There is a lot of music to get through, but free of artistic restrictions and concepts as to what constitutes an album, the beauty of the ‘Variants’ series is as the concept title suggests, the variation, the range of colours, textures and atmospheres emanating from one artist. And that’s how things should be.


The five volumes of ‘Variants’ are all available now from https://richardbarbieri.bandcamp.com/

The double vinyl editions of ‘Variants 1 + 2’ and ‘Variants 3 + 4 plus signed ‘Variants’ CD box + booklet (please note – CDs not included) available from https://burningshed.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RichardBarbieriOfficial/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Martin Bostock and Ben Meadows
7th January 2019, updated 21st March 2019

RICHARD BARBIERI Live at Hoxton Hall

Supporting the release of his third solo album ‘Planets + Persona’, RICHARD BARBIERI presented an intimate live show that covered many facets of his recording career from JAPAN to PORCUPINE TREE.

While Barbieri’s rig featured the expected all mod cons like a MacBook, controllers and a Roland V-Synth, the set-up also included his beloved Sequential Prophet 5 and Roland System 700 Lab Series.

Accompanied by the versatile Swedish musician Lisen Rylander Löve on saxophone, percussion and voice manipulations, the pair began sedately with ‘Night Of The Hunter – (3) Innocence Lost’ from ‘Planets & Persona’.

Utilising a wide cinematic spectrum of electronic and organic colours, the show started in earnest with the sleazy rhythmic adventure of ‘Solar Sea’. The track’s atonal jazz feel with its spacey momentum saw Löve screeching into a Cold War vintage Russian Army microphone, while drowning her eerie larynx with a variety of gadgets. With a warping System 700 bass, it was part avant techno and part ambient as Barbieri moved across his four keyboards to provide texture and atmosphere.

Löve left the stage for Barbieri to perform alone in the evening’s first big surprise. After a series of improvised sweeps and shimmers, the iconic metallic cascade of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’

Barbieri handled the familiar detuned percussive blips on his Prophet 5 before playing the haunting string tones on the V-Synth as a drum loop kicked in. “Oh, I didn’t expect that much applause!” responded the Catford boy after the crowd roared with approval at the end.

Next, the rumbling sub-bass squelches of ‘Medication Time’ from Barbieri’s debut solo long player ‘Things Buried’ shook the fittings of the venue which was built in 1863. As elements of TANGERINE DREAM filled the room, there was yet another surprise when the melancholic electric piano motif from the JAPAN cover of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ appeared at various intervals.

Barbieri continued with the work of his former band by playing the gentle “dolphin music” of ‘The Experience Of Swimming’, the track he composed for the B-side of the ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ single. As the beautifully nautical ambience reached its coda, elements of ‘Nightporter’ were subtly segued in.

Löve returned for ‘Unholy’ with the widescreen vibe countered by unsettling Nordic voice samples, before being followed by the spacey avant jazz of ‘New Found Land’ which was originally written by Barbieri for PORCUPINE TREE.

During this sequence of music, Löve added a kalimba to her repertoire which enhanced the electro- acoustic balance with an authentic ethnic touch.

Closing the main part of the show with ‘Hypnotek’ from Barbieri’s second album ‘Stranger Inside’, the rolling bass sequences, spy drama piano and muted Fourth World tension came together with a musicality that was like a masterclass in instrumental music… MG, please take note!

To rapturous cheers, Barbieri returned for an encore and with the self-deprecating humour he had displayed throughout the evening, he joked: “I didn’t want to wait too long, in case it died down”.

He treated the appreciative crowd with a superb electronic adaptation of PORCUPINE TREE’s ‘Idiot Prayer’. With the new arrangement at times sounding like SIMPLE MINDS’ ‘Love Song’, it was a fabulously energetic conclusion to proceedings.

Unafraid to delve into his glorious history, RICHARD BARBIERI ably showed why he is one of the most inventive synthesizer technicians that the UK has ever produced.

His modest, down-to-earth demeanour with a willingness to stay in the background has perhaps stopped him from being better known, but the music he produces today is still wonderfully intriguing and deserves further investigation.


‘Planets & Persona’ is released in CD, double vinyl and digital formats by Kscope

https://www.facebook.com/RichardBarbieriOfficial/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Paul Rymer
Photos by Richard Price
30th March 2017

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