Per aspera ad astra, a paragon of progressive romanticism plants posterity in the heart of the present.
A fusion of philosophy and phonograph sonics is bound to bring on immersive experience when it’s born from Richard Barbieri’s bout of aural experiments that were partly bankrolled by the veteran’s auctioning off his memorabilia. Better farewell to one’s past and channelling it into the future might be difficult to imagine, but this album focuses on a transitional here-and-now, and the magnificent seven pieces on offer exist very much in the moment. Each instant eventful, they build upon a foundation laid by the electronics maven in 2005’s “Things Buried” and 2008’s “Stranger Inside” and expand the artist’s extrovert leanings into, as the record’s title suggests, outer space.
There’s a constant motion from the upbeat calmness of “Solar Sea” to Percy Jones’ exhilarating glissandos on the “Solar Storm” finale, trumpet licks evoking bliss and glory in equal measure, yet while “Interstellar Medium” finds Barbieri basking in his own vibrant reflections in a special sort of stasis, other voices seep in as stray snippets which are scattered across the record. As a finely textured atmosphere does the talking here, thanks to Richard’s synthesizers et al, these distant echoes add to the album’s unhurried, if riveting, rhythms, albeit it’s the natural timbre that makes “New Found Land” so cinematic, acoustic guitar and piano elevating the elegy to celestial heights. With “Night Of The Hunter” rolling out a tuneful triptych to stage a Blakean morality trip rather than refer directly to a classic film noir, the music creepy undercurrent is rendered enchanting in the light of the artist’s pointillist touch; that’s where a sampled “Shake hands with danger” refrain has come to life to let the listener look into a roaring abyss.
In order to reach the jazzily sparse “Shafts Of Light” which weighs silence against floating notes, this is unavoidable, though, because that’s what it takes for melismatic miasma of “Unholy” to become a mesmerizing plea – dipped in a crystalline suspense – whereas the keys of Richard’s grand get sprinkled with cold kora and surrender to a passionate sax. This soulfulness may seem alien to a Barbieri record, but it’s essential to the album’s logic and and inner light making “Planets + Persona” a pinnacle of the veteran’s career… or a start of a new bout of a music-filled samsara.