Richard Barbieri is a name that needs little introduction, but on his occasional solo albums he calls on his long career in synthesiser technology and sound design to craft highly intricate ambient works that never fall into the trap of being soporific. Planets + Persona is a subtle album, the wisps of Luca Calabrse’s trumpet threading through it like strands of silk fluttering in slow motion, gently agitated by the slightest of imaginary breezes. If that sounds filmic, that is because Planets + Persona certainly is.
As it says under the video for opening track Solar Sea, above; “Watch the video as it takes you on a journey through colliding planets, ice crystals inside a hollow comet, volcanic asteroids spewing molten lava into open space and a breathtaking finale.” Filmed in 360°, it is a suitably atmospheric companion to the music and is a fantastic trip that no doubt works a treat under the influence, so to speak. The music is rather good, too, let’s not forget that! Shimmying robotic synth melodies and disembodied voices off slowly dissolve into nothing as we disappear into a black hole. Marvellous!
The album is unhurried and each track has the time and space to unfold in its own way, the longest being the three-part Night Of The Hunter, inspired by the film of the same name, which sets an idyllic scene in summer, to be unsettled by perceived danger, this middle section sounding not unlike early Gothic Cure to these ancient ears, the piece resolving on melancholic lost innocence, once again Luca’s keening trumpet, low in the mix, wailing with sorrowful longing.
Lisen Rylander Löve’s occasional interjections of mellifluous saxophone, as in Unholy, add another layer to the cake, on this track wheeling above Richard’s curiously Eurocentric sequencer pattern, brought back to the salon by mysterious piano chords as it fades away. This is followed by the delicate construct of Shafts Of Light, which effortlessly conjures the image of dust motes gently swirling in the sun’s rays through a gap in the curtains. Like that scene, it is both simple and highly intricate and ultimately fascinating.
Percy Jones adds his trademark finer-poppin’ rubbery bass to closer Solar Storm, in contrast to the smoother synth sounds that surround it, highlighting the two sides to the album; the human and the synthetic, the grand and the grounded, Planets + Persona, as its title alludes is an album of contrasts that fit perfectly together to create an involving and illuminating whole. It is a very atmospheric album, and with a sumptuous richness that allows one to luxuriate in its warm bath of sound. Light a candle!
[To tie in with the review we also have reports from two shows on Richard Barbieri’s recent tour, you can read these HERE.]
01. Solar Sea (7:30)
02. New Found Land (7:18)
03. Night Of The Hunter (10:45)
04. Interstellar Medium (5:39)
05. Unholy (8:59)
06. Shafts Of Light (6:38)
07. Solar Storm (6:22)
Total Time – 53:15
Richard Barbieri – Synthesisers, Fender Rhodes, Sampler, Electronic Percussion Programming, Sound Design & Programming
Lisen Rylander Löve – Voices, Saxophone, Omnichord, Kalimba & Sound Design
Luca Calabrese – Trumpet
Kjell Severinsson – Drums
Klas Assarsson – Vibraphone
Percy Jones – Bass Guitar
Christian Saggese – Acoustic Guitar
Grice Peters – Kora
Axel Croné – Bass Guitar
Record Label: Kscope
Year of Release: 2017
Richard Barbieri – Facebook