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BARKER

Barker

Unfixed

    Sam Barker returns with his first solo EP since 2020’s BARKER002, this time on Oslo’s Smalltown Supersound. While Barker’s previous releases (2018’s Debiasing EP, 2019’s Utility LP) explored the possibilities of kickless dancefloor tracks, Unfixed sees him inverting the musical equation and exploring both the variability and sonic possibilities of a kick-drum – though the final result is not a concept EP.

    The four tracks emerged from a session that started out as both a technical study in bass drum design and cognition, specifically problem of “functional fixedness”, which describes a mental block that restricts the use of an object to its traditional application. Exploring the so-called “generic parts technique”, whereby an object is broken down into its component parts to help reveal novel solutions, the typical bass drum elements of waveform, transient, and noise were re-combined through modular synthesis to become fluid, expressive and dynamic.

    However, what began as a rule-based experiment was overtaken by a more organic music making process without specific conceptual constraints, which allowed the music to live and breathe. Tracks were started and then left unfinished, only to be approached again and again over lengthy intervals. Stylistically the result a mix of raw, stuttering, psychedelic growl, kosmische techno, and infinite iterations and of a single groove. In this regard, Unfixed sees Barker not only deeply invested in musical experimentation but also exploring his own biases in both composition and sound design. The result is, once again, a sound and musical framework all of his own.


    TRACK LISTING

    1. Birmingham Screwdriver
    2. Wick And Wax
    3. Golden Hammer
    4. Percussive Maintenance 

    Emily Barker

    A Dark Murmuration Of Words

      Dark Murmuration of Words contends with a modern era built on racial and gender inequality, poverty and slavery, environmental exploitation and the climate crisis, finding them all connected by the dark shadow of patriarchy, pursuits of power, and the suppression of history. “Finding meaning becomes challenging with the deafening clamour of social media in this age of fake news,” she says, “but it’s important to try discerning the patterns, learning to pay attention to things closer to home as well as to overwhelming global issues.” Referencing Emily Dickinson’s assertion that “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves,” Barker draws connections between the familial, the local, and the global: a mother sings to her unborn child, asking for its forgiveness on “Strange Weather”, “Where Have The Sparrows Gone?” looks outside an apartment window and imagines a post-apocalyptic birdless London, and a monument to a Confederate general comes alive for a “how-I-got-away-with-it” confession on “Machine.” Throughout A Dark Murmuration of Words, all of our choices, our unspoken prejudices, our carelessness, connect us to the whole, but becoming aware and honest on a local, personal scale, can begin to effect change, allow for healing, and tease out beauty from chaos. “Like the starlings in a murmuration, where the movement of each individual bird is related to just seven of its closest neighbours,” Emily Barker says, “none of us are aware of the fluctuating shapes being created by the flock.”

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Emily Barker is exactly what we need nowadays, a wash of politically charged lyricism, but enclosed within a calming, serene shell. Brittle guitars and Barker's strong but smooth vocals coalesce into a soaring and meditative whole.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Return Me
      2. Geography
      3. The Woman Who Planted Trees
      4. Where Have The Sparrows Gone?
      5. Strange Weather
      6. Machine
      7. When Stars Cannot Be Found
      8. Ordinary
      9. Any More Goodbyes
      10. Sonogram

      Sweet Kind of Blue is her first full studio album since 2013's critically lauded Dear River and marks a new sound for Barker as she returns to the soul and blues influences that first inspired her to become a songwriter and musician.

      Emily Barker's new album was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis with Grammy winning producer Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price) and an allstar cast of Memphis session players.

      Emily Barker is best known as the writer and performer of the award-winning theme to BBC crime drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh. She has released music as a solo artist as well as with various bands including The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae and Applewood Road. In 2015 she composed her first full feature film soundtrack for Jake Gavin's Hector, which won a Scottish BAFTA for its lead actor, Peter Mullan.

      TRACK LISTING

      Sweet Kind Of Blue
      Sister Goodbye
      Sunrise
      No. 5 Hurricane
      If We Forget
      To Dance
      Crazy Life
      Over My Shoulder
      Change
      More!
      Underneath My Honey Moon

      **The Deluxe Version Has A Bonus CD With Other Tracks

      Emily Barker

      The Toerag Sessions

        Recorded live to tape at Toerag Studios, London in January 2015.

        The Toerag Sessions is a collection of solo versions of my songs, recorded live to 2-track tape at Toerag Studios in London with grammy-winning producer Liam Watson (The White Stripes - Elephant).

        Over the last few years, in between touring with my bands The Red Clay Halo and Vena Portae, I've played lots of solo shows. Often people will come up to me at the end of those shows and ask if there is any way to get hold of recordings of the songs as they've just heard them - just me, my guitar and my harmonica.

        Up until now, that hasn't been possible, but with The Red Clay Halo currently on hiatus after their final tour last year, I took the opportunity to go in to the studio to record this selection of songs from my back catalogue. Many of these songs are the ones I usually choose to play at solo shows, with a few additions. The songs go right back to my first UK band the-low-country, through all my albums with The Red Clay Halo, and including a brand new song, 'Anywhere Away', written last year as the theme to the forthcoming British movie Hec McAdam (starring Peter Mullan and Keith Allen).

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Little Deaths 03:21
        2. Nostalgia 03:48
        3. Sideline 03:27
        4. Disappear 02:55
        5. Letters 04:19
        6. Home 03:58
        7. All Love Knows 03:54
        8. The Dark Road 03:56
        9. Lord I Want An Exit 04:18
        10. Blackbird 02:52
        11. This Is How It's Meant To Be 03:54
        12. Anywhere Away 04:03

        Barker & Baumecker

        Transsektoral

        Techno comes in all shapes and sizes, and few recent outfits embody that truth more obviously than Berlinʼs Barker & Baumecker. One operates as Barker/Voltek and the other as nd_baumecker. Both solo projects exhibit unconventional takes on techno inflected by the influence of other genres, from glitch to dubstep to ambient and beyond.

        Titled “Transsektoral”, the album name refers to the duoʼs ambition to travel across the entire spectrum of electronic music. Thatʼs what they do on the LP, bridging a seemingly impossible gap between the dubby blobs of ambient opener “Sektor” to the effervescent bubbling of the epic closer “Spur,” like happy hardcore unravelled and disassembled into a soothing afterword worthy of someone like Dntel.

        These are machinistic creations that swell with organic respiration and lush life, despite their artificial origins. The album jumps from garage-leaning bouncy house with “No Body” to exuberant tonnes-heavy off- kilter house (“Buttcracker”) where bubbles of caustic acid send the track into overdrive - yet none of these shifts quite feel like the gigantic stylistic leaps they represent. Instead, theyʼre smoothed out into something altogether pleasant and listenable, the album itself sharing each trackʼs own gentle sense of development and build-up.

        Thatʼs largely due to careful sequencing: for every stretch of twitchy funk like “Schlang Bang” - where hi-hats and snares swim against a sea of topsy-turvy basslines like in difficult backstrokes - or the pumping liquid grooves of “Trans_it,” there are brief but texturally rich interludes like the sleepy-eyed “Tranq,” which rumbles reassuringly below a palette of twinkling synths. The album has an ebb-and-flow that makes its eccentricities enjoyable rather than obnoxious. And eccentric it is, particularly on mid-album highlight “Crows” (reworked for the single “A Murder of Crows” earlier this year) where what sounds like a blaring horn fanfare lights the dark passage of rustling snares - a startlingly unexpected turn that quickly becomes natural.

        By the time we get to the end of the album, the simmer becomes nearly unbearable and finally boils over with the aweinspiring “Silo,” the track that betrays the duoʼs Berghain heritage (Barker runs the clubʼs Leisure System night, Baumecker is a booker for the club and long serving resident DJ there), where hissing hats get lost in a wringer of ropy vicegrip basslines and violent whiplash kick drums. Itʼs almost the albumʼs one concession to conventionality. Itʼs a perfect distillation of the overall aesthetic that Barker & Baumecker reveal with “Transsektoral” - it makes perfect sense in execution, but put it on paper and itʼs nearly incomprehensible, not to mention sprawling. Itʼs enough to make you wonder what kind of magic they did to put it together in the first place.

        TRACK LISTING

        01. Sektor
        02. Trafo
        03. SchlangBang
        04. Crows
        05. Tranq
        06. NoBody
        07. Trans_it
        08. Databass133⅓
        09. Buttcracker
        10. Silo
        11. Spur

        "You & Me" is Kevin Barker's debut album, released by Gnomonsong. Though it's his first solo release under his own name, Barker's no newcomer to the scene - he's spent the last few years recording, touring, and collaborating with Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Vashti Bunyan, Vetiver, Antony and the Johnsons, and Espers, to name just a few. Essentially acting as everyone's favourite sideman, Barker has influenced and helped create a sound with which this generation is happily familiar. During his college days, Barker became interested in the finger-style guitar playing of John Fahey and Bert Jansch and began to record under the name Currituck County. This solo project (sometime a duo with Vetiver / Espers drummer Otto Hauser) recorded albums for Teenbeat Records, Troubleman Unlimited, and the UK's Track and Field Organisation. Now Barker has assembled an unbelievable group of musicians for "You & Me". The album features Pat Sansone (Wilco), Joanna Newsom, Jonathan Wilson (Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis), Eric Johnson (Shins, Fruit Bats), and Otto Hauser (Vetiver, Espers). Full of sunny, rural country rock, "You & Me" recalls the rustic grooves of The Band and The Grateful Dead, the heady melancholy of Roy Harper, and the golden harmonies of CSNY.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Little Picture Of You
        2. You & Me
        3. Mountain & Bear
        4. Amber
        5. Walking Along
        6. My Lady
        7. I Will Fly
        8. Bless You On Your Way


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