RICHARD BARRETT – Strange Lines And Distances

Strange Strings

Acousmatic wizard Richard Barrett and harpist Milana Zarić started a label with the intent of releasing albums from musicians active in exploratory areas, as well as works produced by Barrett and Zarić themselves. Strange Lines And Distances is our first contact with the imprint; based on this experience, the future looks auspicious.

Barrett employs his daughter Siân Wassermann twice, in pieces published eight years apart. Firstly in the brief title track, where her 9-year old tone – reciting snippets from Francis Bacon’s “The New Atlantis” – is camouflaged among endless formant mutations. Most extensively in “Luminous,” a piece dedicated to the late Ivo Malec that rests on shards of Georg Trakl’s poem “De Profundis.” Initially quasi-minimalist, the compositional structure suddenly becomes unpredictable both dynamically and in terms of timbral juxtaposition, and remains in this state of fragmentariness until the transcendent finale, amidst modified reflections of Wassermann’s now-adolescent voice and stimulating electroacoustic materials.

“Vermilion Sands” is an attempt to evoke the “sonic sculptures” mentioned in JG Ballard’s short stories of the same name. It conveys a sense of uncontrollable fluidity, its pliable matters typified by intertwining acute/shrilling frequencies and vague reminiscences of animalistic expressions akin to phantasmagorical appearances. The whole ends in a magma of distorted asymmetries.

The (somehow) most mysterious episode is “Eye-Blink (1).” In April 2020, Barrett – locked down in Belgrade – devised this track for the individual members of Alinéa Ensemble, each of whom sent their recorded part to the composer, who assembled the vocal and instrumental elements in binaural mode. The words, originated by Harry Gilonis, consist of reinterpretations of Chinese poems from the T’ang period. With those, Barrett created separate “songs” to embed in the score, their complexions overlapping and merging into a riveting aural organization. Evoking scents of contemporary classical, analog abstraction and utter indefinability, this is a small system of acoustic universes where one can adapt, or get completely lost.

The ARP 2600 synthesizer is prized by the experts for the unpredictability of what is generated by its oscillators. Barrett used Arturia’s ARP 2600 V3 software version to compose “Disquiet,” which along with the aforementioned “Luminous” belongs to a larger opus called “PSYCHE.” Through the identification and tuning of the instabilities distinguishing the instrument in question, a music is formed whose temperament is apparently quiet, but actually rather sinister. The combination of glissando, morphing sounds, gradual ebbs and flows and backgrounds full of inherently dangerous resonances is manna for ears hungry for uncommon sonorities.

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