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Thread: Natasha Barrett latest release

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    Natasha Barrett latest release

    Natasha Barrett-Leap Seconds (2021; Sargasso)

    Right off the bat, and just to get this out of the way now…I’ll tell you that this release is an early leader in the BAR (Best Acousmatic Record) category for 2021. The Academy (that would be…me) is pretty stoked about this recording!

    Leap Seconds has four major works ranging from 12 to almost 21 minutes, and there really isn’t a moment on this long disc that is wasted or left me wanting in any way. The album is available in CD format on the Sargasso site, but more importantly, if you purchase the CD, you are then provided a free link to download the album in the binaural format. I’ve only listened to this in binaural (through headphones of course), and because it sounds off the charts amazing that way, I’m really not in a hurry to listen to it on the big stereo. So this write up is based on the binaural format.

    For me, to fully appreciate these four works, I need to approach them with a full gas tank. In other words, completely awake, clear headed, alert and willing to accept a responsibility to be as active as a listener as possible. Each title is an elaborate set piece that is packed with elements and details that happen so discreetly, they are easy to miss. I feel I can listen to this album every day for months and still pick out new bits and fragments that are totally new to me.

    There is no point going into Barrett’s use of modern technology, recording techniques and mixing skills because, in the war of those words, I would find myself hopelessly unarmed. (Please see her website if interested in those things.) The bottom line seems to be placing sounds in space relative to the listener is of primary importance to her. Succeeding at this defines the landscape (or soundscape) that allows the listener, in a perfect world…to explore at will an infinite universe of people/places/things/worlds, limited only by their minds inhibitions.

    I recently revisited much of her back catalog (with write ups on AMN of a few here, here and most recently, here). Among the many redeeming qualities in her music, the one that is most striking is her ability to move sounds in such a way as to make them appear three dimensional. Leap Seconds takes this quality to new heights. In the binaural format, the spatialization of sounds is key to this listeners enjoyment and since I don’t have my own personal Acousmonium, binaural listening is the next best thing.

    Of course at the end of the day, for the listener of this music, it really shouldn’t matter how the sounds were produced or what their source was. The organization of such sounds which leads to a personal narrative they tell us is what counts, and it’s this narrative that provides the reason to indulge myself in the Acousmatic space. Leap Seconds is one of the most narrative rich recordings I’ve ever experienced. Since I’ve only scratched the surface of this recording (roughly six or seven listenings) and, because of the massive amount of detail in these pieces…I’m only able to (try to) describe the experience in a random and disjointed way. Please excuse the somewhat “stream of consciousness” style.

    On a high level, one of the first things I noticed was an air of fragile complexity, especially on the first piece, Involuntary Expression. Imagine taking a slow stroll through spangled corridors of an incredibly ornate, many-sided physical structure. All details, even rendered down to a microscopic level are put forward in stark relief. The structure seems to be wholly assembled with hair thin filigrees of purest crystal that interlock and weave together in elaborate Escher-like patterns. Points of vividly colored glass strands snap out unexpectedly, momentarily interrupting the flow of the sparkling clear and white edifice. Miniscule dust specks of light linger in the air space during this journey, but those flash out of existence, seemingly at will. The structure, in its entirety seems to be eternally at risk of crumbling down into tiny glass flakes.



    The longest piece, The Weathered Piano also worked as an exploratory journey, albeit one that ventures into more unlit zones. Instead of the “light” of Involuntary Expression, this one dwells in that fleeting period, the moments before all traces of light disappear. The “not quite” pitch of night…rather the muddy gray’s of the ticks preceding. Also, unlike Involuntary Expression, this is not a stroll, buy rather a hurried walk bordering on run. An urge to constantly look over your shoulder at an unseen, but sensed shade. These halls are sparse and echoey, bare and smooth…and they invoke a sense of diminished breathable air. Every passing second takes you closer to an unseen void, a threatening nothingness. Near the end of this journey a child, or childlike voice materializes, there are sounds of nature, a very vocal, insistent dog. The voice is muffled and jumbled, completely incomprehensible. Is it your voice? Is it the last residual stub of memory before the void engulfs?



    On the beautifully titled He Slowly Fell and Transformed Into the Terrain, everyday life is heard, maybe in a rural or suburban setting…definitely not urban. A group of children at play. There is another child standing alone, unseen, an outcast that may as well be invisible to his peers. He’s muttering something under his breath with his eyes closed tightly. What is that swirling sound? What at first sounds like dead leaves caught in a mini cyclone mutates into something growing, something that is organic, growing, assembling itself. There is a moist viscosity to it as organs are attaching themselves to each other, as soft, malleable bone marrow is folded into something more permanent. The child opens his eyes a fraction, so they are just slits…just wide enough to see what he’s created. He smirks.

    Finally there is Dusk’s Gait. Large, interlocking moving structures of metal, stone and thick dark wood powered by some humongous, ancient, hidden engine (steampunk variety?) move to join with each other, jig-saw fashion. Impenetrable walls around a sparsely populated metropolis in some far flung future. This city is somehow wrong, modeled after no known city in existence. Angles are unnaturally skewed and things that should have order, do not. A sense of chaotic unease is mixed into its atmosphere. There is an irritating sense of something that has gone haywire all around, but nothing obvious presents itself, it’s just there.

    So, after reading this you are probably thinking I’ve read and watched way too much speculative/weird fiction, which is probably true. After reading the liner notes, nothing I have written comes remotely close to what the composer was thematically sharing with us…but, that being said, Barrett also writes: “They can be listened to as musical journeys, but the journeys are neither narrative nor totally abstract. Rather they aim to entice the listener into their flow for a more personal discovery. The sounds and musical structures are fashioned to personify the dynamic behavior of real-world events and to evoke sensations of living entities.”

    I think she succeeds. A wonderful thing about this release is, I can go back to it in a week/month/year and visualize a completely different tableau. What I wrote above is just some of the infinite journeys I can conjure. The wandering mind is a magnificent thing and I can’t wait to conjure other vista’s…I just have to listen!

    best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 04-03-2021 at 03:19 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  2. #2
    I'm guessing she wouldn't like that I played both tracks at the same time and enjoyed the result.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    I'm guessing she wouldn't like that I played both tracks at the same time and enjoyed the result.
    Hey...whatever gets you through the night man.

    And just a gut feeling...but I don't think she would mind that at all

    (I might try that)

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    Typically excellent pieces from her. Thanks for posting. This one's on my list! Unfamiliar with the label (Sargasso) or any of the other artists. This bears investigating...
    Last edited by soundsweird; 04-05-2021 at 11:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by soundsweird View Post
    Typically excellent pieces from her. Thanks for posting. This one's on my list! Unfamiliar with the label (Sargasso) or any of the other artists. This bears investigating...
    I'm constantly amazed at how she is able to build these pieces up. One sound object after the next, some layered on top of each other, it truly blows me away.

    But regardless of that...who cares "how" she does it (I have to admit, it IS interesting to think about)...If the final result gives me a season ticket to the "how to feel like you are tripping without actually dropping acid" club (which it does)...I'm in.

    best
    Michael

    P.S. I can tell you that Felipe Otondo release, Night Studies is really good! The label been around for a while
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    This is a link to a 1 hour concert that has been "virtualized" into 3d audio and then "binauralized" for headphone or ear bud listening. Most of the performance are two guys I'm not familiar with but that may change, as this was really good. It was very interesting to see them do what they were doing live, because there was a physical aspect to this. I just found that the way they were moving around microphones on various sound carrying devices while they were vibrating was fascinating.

    The remaining 15 minutes is Natasha Barrett talking about 3d ambisonics and then diffusing a short 5 minute piece called Talking Trees. Barrett is a huge proponent of 3d spatialization and seems to be very cutting edge with her sound sources, as she describes in the talk before the performance.

    I wish they would have given her more time, since there was another two pieces she diffused but somehow were left off. Anyway, I would love to see more streaming shows in this format, because through my ear bud rig this sounded freaking amazing, especially at loud volume. So, if you have an hour to kill, and are into this shit, I would recommend listening/watching.



    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  7. #7
    Subterranean Tapir Hobo Chang Ba's Avatar
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    Of the three N Barrett released I've heard (Trade Winds, Puzzle Wood, and this new one), the new one is my favorite. Overall, I find her stuff doesn't captivate me as much as some other things in the same general field do. I suspect this is because I'm not listening to it on the best equipment and with the effort she puts into this and the depth and layering of the music, I'm probably not doing it justice to feel the emersion. Which is my loss, as she is obviously incredibly talented and super knowledgeable when it comes to this type of thing.
    My favorite fortune cookie read: "The only way to be successful on the internet is the keep the assholes preventing valuable discussion and eliminate the discussion itself."

    Never let good music get in the way of making a profit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobo Chang Ba View Post
    Of the three N Barrett released I've heard (Trade Winds, Puzzle Wood, and this new one), the new one is my favorite. Overall, I find her stuff doesn't captivate me as much as some other things in the same general field do. I suspect this is because I'm not listening to it on the best equipment and with the effort she puts into this and the depth and layering of the music, I'm probably not doing it justice to feel the emersion. Which is my loss, as she is obviously incredibly talented and super knowledgeable when it comes to this type of thing.
    Hi HCB,

    Barrett's recent stuff, like Leap Seconds is made to be listened to on headphones IMHO. If you bought that Cd from Sargasso, then you should have been given a link to a binaural recording of the whole album. It's this binaural recording (through headphones of course) that is the real game changer for me.

    As much as I love Trade Winds, and the album before that called Kraftfelt, I think the binaural recording of Leap Seconds just takes her work up to the next level, sound wise. I don't have the best earbuds, but I do use a DAC/headphone preamp and that greatly helps too. I guess my point is, you don't have to be a hi-fi equipment nazi to make this music work for you...any decent set of earbuds will be more than enough to appreciate the nuance.

    One other thing too, Barrett's work is, admittedly...difficult I think. It took my ages to come around to enjoying it, even on a base level. So, I have to give you massive amounts of points for even trying to breach her music. Well done!!

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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    My latest write up for the recent release of Natasha's.

    AMN Reviews: Natasha Barrett – Subliminal Throwback (2021; Bandcamp)





    Natasha Barrett has recently started a Bandcamp page and, so far has released three works that have not had an album release. All three are in binaural sound and all come highly recommended.

    Her latest is an installation piece called Subliminal Throwback. The site-specific piece was composed for a small outdoor amphitheater in Oslo which appears to be enclosed with shrubbery and bushes with a modern brick building that stands behind. The format is an 8-channel, partially hidden ambisonics loudspeaker array, and a custom designed 'beam-forming' loudspeaker that directs sound to reflect off the surrounding surfaces.

    The download includes the 20 minute original studio mix before it was deployed on-site and two extracts (totaling about 53 minutes) after deployment at various locations throughout the site. The two on-site extracts include the extrinsic sounds of birds, human voices, footsteps etc. as the listener takes their virtual walk through the installation site.

    Here is an 8 minute video that will add context to the site location. (I was hesitant to include this video as it may prejudice the listeners own “cinema for the ear” but decided to include it to show the layout of the space. By all means skip it in favor of your own personal worldbuilding.) Barrett is more than happy to talk tech and if you ever visited her website, she shares a lot of insights into her workflows and processes.

    All three “versions” of Subliminal Throwback guide the listener on an evolutionary path, allowing one to experience the piece starting with its creation in the studio, followed by the inevitable changes in how its perceived once the work makes it out into the wild.

    While I appreciate Barrett presenting this sonic make-over, you may be wondering if the sounds stand up to the Acousmatic listener (without the how’s and why’s of it all). Well, I’m happy to say yes, yes indeed! The 20 minute studio mix presents a Lord Dunsany inspired surreal world of shapes and colors. A landscape strewn with lost trinkets and toys from the past. Mementos taking shape out of the nothingness only to de-materialize as you fervently reach out to grasp them in the hope that they will spark long forgotten memories. The binaural coding works wonders on this piece so turn off the loudspeakers and make sure you experience it with headphones or earbuds.

    The second version was recorded on-site and also coded for binaural sound. The piece takes on a completely different persona since the original sounds are interacting with the environment. Subsequently, there is a very “live” ambience weaved into the sound field. Because it’s binaural, the 3D listening sensation presents itself in a very different way than the sterile environment of the studio. The air is palpable, and the world is alive with the sound of the living. Again, the binaural mix elevates this version from an interesting field recording with electronics to a world that the listener can inhabit, with sights and sounds limited only by their imagination.

    Finally, the third version (again in binaural) presents yet another aural experience of the site. To the best of my understanding, this segment was diffused through a beam-forming array of speakers. This is above my pay grade but what I believe is happening is the output of sounds is being diffused through an array of speakers with the signals from each being controlled separately. This facilitates the ability to “dial into” certain sounds which will make them more prevalent to the perceptions of the listener. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure what Barrett’s intent was after hearing this version several times. To me, it sounds like the previous on-site piece but with a change to the overall ambience. Things seem closer somehow, the general vibe is a more secluded section of the site. Maybe that was her point, but enjoyment wise…it’s continues to be a wonderful 3D listening experience.

    Overall, Subliminal Throwback is yet another fantastic addition to Natasha Barrett’s catalog. Judging from her last several releases, I knew going in that this was not going to be an easy listen. She is constantly pushing the envelope in the Acousmatic music field and, in doing so, it seems that she is putting the listener (either someone casually experiencing one of her installation pieces or someone, like me who enjoys a very deep and active concert-like listen) front and center by providing the tools to enable us to hear our world…or other worlds. My highest recommendation!

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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