When I think of an artist like Richard Barbieri, I always remind myself of his work between Japan, his collaboration with Marillion’s Steve Hogarth with the 2012 release of Not the Weapon But the Hand, and Porcupine Tree. He has released two solo albums from 2005 to 2008. What Barbieri is doing is not being flashy, but create these electronic voyages and bringing the future to us through his keyboard playing and deciding what will happen next.
This year, he has released his third solo album on the Kscope label entitled, Planets + Persona. He’s recorded the album in London, Sweden, and Italy. The title comes from central themes between contrasts and shape shifting sounds. Everything on here resembles; World Music, Far-Out Space, Jazz, Classical Guitar, German Electronic Music of the 1970s, Post-Punk/New Wave, Radiohead, and David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy.
Richard creates this gigantic long road that he built from scratch. It goes from a grassy meadow into a mansion-like steampunk house that looks very much inside of a Rubik’s cube with puzzling technology that is far beyond what the future will have in store for us in the 21st and the 22nd century. And then taking us into far, far away planets and dreamlike atmospheres.
He brought along some guests to help out including; Percy Jones and Axel Crone on Bass Guitars, Kjell Severinsson on Drums, Luca Calabrese on Trumpet, Lisen Rylander Love on Vocals, Sound Design, Ominchord, and Sax, Klas Assarsson on Vibraphone, Grice Peters on Kora, and Christian Saggese on Acoustic Guitar. The sonic experimental vibrations give an affectional blessing that Barbieri has given to us.
What Richard is doing, is not just giving Planets + Persona an amazing album, but a spell binding release. As I’ve mentioned earlier with the genres, he brings it all to the listener to embark on a strange, surreal, and a cosmic journey beyond space and time. For example with Solar Sea, the last 2-minutes of the opening track after the first six minutes of setting for lift-off, mid-blaring Trumpets, electronica grooves, and surreal vocalizations, it changes into a reminiscent of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht-era in which he takes us deep, deeper into the ocean for ominous piano chords and eerie orchestral scratches to fill the time that sends a chilling atmosphere.
The 10-minute piece, Night of the Hunter which takes its name and inspired by Charles Laughton’s 1955 film classic. The only film he’s ever directed. With this three-part movement of the composition, he creates these textures as if he was writing an alternate score for the film. You have the first section of Summer which starts for the morning to rise featuring classical guitars, piano’s going through a Leslie speaker, effects, and strings waiting for the sun to come up to begin a new day, but it’s too late.
Everything turns into a dystopian nightmare with Shake Hands with Danger. You can feel the eruption through the dooming bass, vocalizing moments, and electronic trip-hop drum beats including the line spoken and knowing that this is not the dream you’ve expected from Big Brother and knowing that he’s watching every sense and step you make.
The last section, Innocence Lost, is a chilling scenario. With alarming jazz sections between the Sax, Trumpet, and Drums, it closes the piece with reverb effects done in the style between Miles Davis and King Crimson’s Bitches Brew and Lizard period that made the rest of my arm hairs going up.
The album gets better and better each time I would delve into Barbieri’s conceptual ideas. One of them is Shafts of Light. It is Richard combining both electronic, minimal, and classical music into a gigantic circle. There are elements between Philip Glass’ Music in 12 Parts and Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air. I love how he would sandwich the sounds between Saggese’s acoustic guitar, musique-concrete moments, and vocals which he had put together by making this puzzle and making sure they match well to the piece.
And it does. Mind you this is not an easy album to listen to, but what Richard has done is to creating a mysterious doorway to the sounds and shifting moments that will chill you to the bone. This has everything on here as I’ve mentioned earlier of the genres it brings to mind. So if you are ready for the sounds of electronica, jazz, classical, and experimental music, then prepare to climb aboard the shuttle to the sounds of Planets + Persona.