Baraclough - Esta Sideways Etc [Bored Bear Recordings - 2014]
English group Baraclough creates patient, ritualized electronics, generally sparse and deliberate, so that the nuances of each sound are emphasized. To my ears, it would seem they are intentionally creating 'magickal' musick in the vein of previous British groups like Coil or Nurse With Wound. Their sound goes beyond the diversity and inactivity of most music that is called 'ambient', possessing a theatric flair for sudden changes and a narrative structure that makes the album feel like a suite with 10 movements. I am always glad to hear more music in this vein, as Coil is among my favorite groups.
The production is high fidelity and luminous. The sounds are pleasurable on a physical level, saturated the mind with neon colors. Each sound is filled with complex and meaningful otherworldly modulations. If I had to guess, I would venture to say the sounds are likely digital, utilizing granular and FM synthesis to generate bizarre metallic permutations of overtones. It is a good example of the astounding level of control it is possible to exact upon sound texture these days. Like the best loop-based drone albums, the repetitious sounds reveal hidden messages upon each iteration, too filled with information to absorb quickly. It is less ferocious and charged with evil, perhaps, than similar music from Cyclobe or Thighpaulsandra.
The tracks range in length from as little as 30 seconds all the way to 13:23. I noticed a pattern after awhile of listening: the shorter 'interlude' tracks tend to feature surrealist spoken lyrics intoned in a soft, calm voice, and serve as introductions to lengthy, empty and repetitive dronescapes, featuring the hypnotic, texturally rich 'woozy electronics' described in their artist bio.
The result is a vaguely unsettling and surprisingly personal album. If I'd read that Baraclough was the bedroom project of a single person, I would not have been surprised, as the music certainly has that kind of isolationist feeling. Yet, interestingly, Baraclough is a band with 3 members, each with distinct and separate roles, which perhaps provides an explanation as to why each element of the sound is so carefully refined.
It's great to see groups like Baraclough and The Psychogeographical Commission continuing the British tradition of pagan moon electronics. Due to the abstract, vague and multifaceted nature of both the electronics and lyrics on this album, it's easy to play this album many times and get something new out of it each time. It's so tastefully paced and organized that it feels concise even in its longest tracks. I look forward to the future of this group.Josh Landry