Barker – Utility
Written by Toby Taylor on 5th September 2019
Barker’s debut solo LP ‘Utility’ picks up where ‘Debiasing’ left off, challenging stylistic conventions and exploring the euphoric potential of altering key variables in dance music formulas.
Barker’s music has always challenged the conventions of dance music. His debut EP ‘Debiasing’, whilst geared towards the dancefloor, challenged genre categorisations through it’s negligible use of kick drums. With ‘Utility’ Barker explores this mantra even further, melding experimentation and dancefloor pragmatism with the psychology behind the musical decision making process. As he explains “After ‘Debiasing’ it occurred to me that my musical decisions were often unintentionally utilitarian, following an instinct to maximize pleasure in one way or another. It’s sort of unfashionable to admit, but by removing elements that have strong genre associations, this became a natural consequence.”
Thus, whilst modular synthesis makes up the core of the album’s sound, he also makes use of self-built mechanical instruments and plate reverbs and retains his characteristic lack of kick-drum. The results are stunning. ‘Utility’ is filled with beautiful, emotive, free-floating and futuristic melodies and rhythms that create ethereal soundscapes that belie the mechanical nature of their construction. Across the nine tracks, these manifest in different forms, ranging from the more upbeat title track and skittery “Experience Machines” to the more serene and utopian sounds of tracks such as “Paradise Engineering” and “Wire Heading.” Despite these slight stylistic variations, beauty is the underlying constant and simply put, this is an sublime album that you’d be silly not to pick up.
‘Utility’ is out now on Ostgut Ton.