UK BABEL LABEL BDV13118 CD (2012)
“My brain feels Gong-like; Gong-like…” as an old friend of mine used to pun. If Gong had ever recorded with The Residents the results probably wouldn’t have sounded that much like this record, but in my mind I think even so this is an okay comparison. It gets us straight to the area Barbacana are exploring, hopefully. In places, track two, “Steam”, does sound like one of those brief little instrumental passages on Angels Egg, extended to a logical conclusion. Maybe it’s the clarinets that suggested that?
There’s quite a lot of talk currently, about the dire situation that contemporary jazz is in at the moment that I don’t particularly wish to contribute to here, but I will say this: unlike a lot of contemporary jazz albums, this is fun! “Adobes”, the third track, is a change of pace/mood. Interlocking modal playing with Fender Rhodes piano-ish sounds reminiscent – in atmosphere only – of TNT-era Tortoise. Track five, “For no raisin”, features country-ish guitar playing, but it is not incongruous stylistically – it blends nicely with the other instruments. At this point I actually forgot I was listening to a “jazz” album – the music has dropped refreshingly and completely out of its proscribed genre. Track six, “Migration – Big BIG Shop”, features some of the off-kilter jazz inflections that made some of the Duophonic roster so compelling; My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O’Ciosoig’s brief, psychotic Clear Spot project, for example. Here, Adrien Dennefeld’s Steve Hillage-styled guitar leads produce a beautiful implosion of angst and disorder. “Migration…” has Chicagoan shades of Bundy K Brown’s afro-lite projects and even Jamie Muir’s percussion improvisions on King Crimson’s Red. Another echo of Gong is that Barbacana also appear to be an Anglo-French agglomerate: Adrien Dennefeld is joined by James Allsopp on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Sylvain Darrifourq on drums, objects and toys and Kit Downes on organ, keys and prepared piano. Suffice to say; there’s quite a lot of blue-blowing by all concerned. The final track, “Outro”, says “the theme’s the thing!”
Overall, there are quite a few moments of introspection which makes the more overt sections more interesting and the album as a whole more balanced. It is prominently stated that Barbacana is a co-production between the band and the label, interestingly. Is this the shape of things to come in the world of record labels in the Twenty-First Century? I understand it is not unknown right now in the area of experimental music for artists to share production costs with their labels.