Original photo Visvaldas Morkevicius.
Catarina Barbieri is a Berlin based Italian electronic sound composer. Her music is primarily created on the legendary Buchla, whose squelchy, modular tones have been made famous by artists such as Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.
Holding a degree in electro- acoustic music from Stockholm’s famed Elektronmusikstudion, Barbieri’s interests include music and machine learning. While this might lead to an assumption her music is dry or overly cerebral, it’s not. The sound is natural and organic. Stylistically, the music fills a space between dance, ambient, minimalism, classical and experimental.
Two of Barbieri’s previous albums - Patterns of Consciousness (2017) and Ecstatic Computation (2019) - have spent a lot of time on my turntable. The eerie, haunting, etherial patterns were perfect for late night listening. To my unrefined Antipodean ears, they sounded sophisticated. Somehow, European.
Late last year, when I saw the new album Fantas Variations was released, I ordered the vinyl LP online from her Bandcamp. The album’s premise is multiple re-workings of the single track Fantas, lifted from her Ecstatic Computation record. It also features collaborators and different instruments - organ, saxophone, voice, guitar and other electronic accompaniments. Not the usual bleeps and spooky tones of the Buchla. The lush green craggy landscape depicted on the album cover is mysterious and fantastical. But as the album winged across the oceans, I wondered if I would like this new direction.
Fortunately, many of the elements that I enjoyed about Barbieri’s previous albums do remain. Space, repetition, lush and ominous dark tones. While the new music is mostly acoustic or traditional instruments, interwoven are hints of Barbieri’s past modular work. It’s not obvious that all the tracks are reworks of Fantas, which is a good thing. I’m not sure I’m up for eight similar versions of just one song. The tracks aren’t ‘remixes’ - they are new performed versions, or more like reinventions.
While I do tend to skip side three of the double vinyl LP (featuring the more intense banger Fantas Hardcore), overall the album stands up to the previous work. Now, after a few months listening, I find the record often makes its way to my turntable. Like the others, usually that’s late in the evening.
Featuring – Annie Garlid, Lyra Pramuk, Stine Janvin
Kali Malone– Fantas For Two Organs
Walter Zanetti– Fantas For Electric Guitar
Baseck– Fantas Hardcore
Kara-Lis Coverdale– Fantas Morbida
Caterina Barbieri – Perennial Fantas