Landscapes is the latest release from prolific Yorkshire born composer and producer Kirk Barley (Bambooman). Across a tight 34-minute runtime, the album presents eleven short pieces that inhabit an exotic, other-worldly space of chiming guitars, buzzing insects and squelching synth tones. Working with looped fragments of his own instrumental, electronic and field-recorded sounds, Barley assembled the tracks from edited improvisations, some of them enriched with live drums from Matt Davies.
Barley's skittering, off-kilter loops overlap freely, combining with meterless, free-jazz-inspired drumming and processed environmental field recordings to craft gently surging sonic environments. At once static and constantly shifting, the pieces unfold themselves like views of a landscape, where we take in individual details one at a time while always remaining aware of the whole.
Deeply influenced by the ‘fourth world’ philosophies of trumpeter Jon Hassell, champion of a music bridging global traditions and contemporary technologies, Landscapes integrates electro-acoustic techniques with suggestions of a variety of non-western musical forms, from the pitched percussion effects of ‘Water Wheel’ (calling to mind the incredible bamboo tube percussion of Solomon Islands music) to the stately gamelan-esque procession of clanging metallic tones and deep, filtered synth chords that underlies the pop and crackle of fireworks on ‘Ark’.
Several pieces make use of a drifting pentatonic harmony that brings them close to the work of Japanese ambient pioneer Hiroshi Yoshimura, though Barley’s productions are so rich in detail and surprise that they demand active listening.
At other times, a distinctly English sensibility makes itself felt in the pastoral expanses of gently spaced chords and chiming guitar harmonics, calling up the delicate miniatures of Simon Fisher Turner and Colin Lloyd Tucker’s cult Deux Filles project. Landscapes is an unassuming but powerful work that uses a rich array of details, materials and techniques to conjure 11 snapshots of a unique sound world, one both comforting and disorienting.
Recommended for anyone moved by the evocative sketches of Eno’s Music for Films, the fourth world fusion of Jon Hassell, the abstract explorations of the far-side of club music techniques of Giuseppe Ielasi/Inventing Masks or the tropical soundscapes of Lievens Martens/Dolphins Into The Future.
1. Bathe Pt 2
4. Bathe Pt 3
7. Breathe (Paseo)
8. Water Wheel
Release Date: 22/11/2019