Better stop the things you do: British sculptor of sonic ties that bind liberate their tangles to capture the wonder of transience.
An art-rock demiurge, Richard Barbieri has never been interested in creating simple worlds preferring instead to paint planes of consciousness on intangible canvas the very perception of which paradoxically require if not delving into hypnagogia then immersing oneself in the dark until every little detail of his sound designs attain color, form and deep meaning. The veteran doesn’t try to entrance any listener, aficionado and the uninitiated alike, but the nature of what he deals in makes everyone cast a glance at their inner universe to understand its place in the grand scheme of things. That’s what the English composer’s "Planets + Persona" was about and that’s what will appear to lie at the root of this album – yet “Under A Spell” should offer a passive experience as a way to exorcise the variety of demons possessing people in the pandemic period.
The record’s dream-like state may be introduced on its onset, on the album’s title track whose vibraphone-studded synthetic billows unravel dynamically stunning subaquatic panorama – understated despite the increasing presence of percussion, and gravitating towards a trumpet-tickled groove and a much vaster aural area only for the pulsing signals of “Clockwork” wind the sonic expanse back and spice the space with spectral voice. That’s when nocturnal terrors are displaced by the stately glacier which carries the violin-encrusted “Flare 2” to the dancing waters, pianos and brass ripple giving this danse macabre a magnetic allure. But Lisen Rylander Löve’s vocals bring a human touch to the otherwise cold “A Star Light” before Steve Hogarth’s sampled pipes join in on “Serpentine”: a meandering and slightly creepy piece where elastic lines of Percy Jones’ bass tangle into arresting ornaments and break free once the patterns become apparent.
Still, while the barely-there “Sleep Will Find You” veers via ivories-sculpted effects in search of a dream, “Darkness Will Find You” focuses on moonless thrills rather than threats and locates Richard’s majestic playing within celestial spheres of one’s mind. Sandwiched between these two performances, the more substantial “Sketch 6” is also more nightmarish and simultaneously more optimistic in its cosmic jive, anthemic reach and melodic clarity, so the acoustically-tinctured finale of “Lucid” couldn’t feel more logical or sensual, Suzanne Barbieri’s whisper conjuring a captive psyche to return to orbit and eventually break the spell.
Not that it will result in reality check – most likely the listener is to start this reverie once again.