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Richard Barbieri

Under a Spell

Review by Gary Hill

Richard Barbieri is probably best known for his work in the bands Japan and Porcupine Tree. His keyboard skills definitely bring a lot to both acts. Here we have his latest solo album, and it is well-tied to the electronic music of the 1970s, This is a rich and varied release with a lot of interesting things going on within its run. The set is not purely keyboard based or solo, though. There are number of guests here. Most notably for me Percy Jones provides some of the bass on the album and Steve Hogarth provides vocal samples.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Under A Spell
Trippy, slow moving keyboard structures bring this in. It grows out gradually from there. A bit of a jazzy element emerges as it continues. This takes us into strange space zones, too. After a while the piece picks up a rhythmic angle and works toward more driving, moving electronic music territory. This is classy stuff and the kind of thing that would have been very much at home in the 1970s.
Clockwork
There are some voice samples in the mix here, sort of distant. The cut has a spacey electronic feeling to it. This is reasonably short (at least in comparison to the opener) and more constant from start to end.
Flare 2
Starting tentatively and gradually, this works out into a killer number that combines the electronic, space and jazz stylings into something really special. As strong as the first couple tracks were, this really ups the ante. This becomes particularly energized and moving as it continues.
A Star Light
As you would imagine, there is a spacey texture to this. It is another that has some vocal samples.
Serpentine
The title really is a good description of this piece. There is a cool percussive element to this. The bass lines are rubbery. The whole tune has a great jazzy, spacey vibe. This is one of my favorite tracks of the whole disc.
Sleep Will Find You
Mellower, spacey elements are at play as this starts. There are some vocal samples on the piece. It's one of the shorter and more constant tracks here.
Sketch 6
Starting rather sparse and tentative, this works outward into more of an energetic, vaguely jazzy piece of space music. It begins to intensify as the arrangement fills out. This really gets quite powerful before it's over.
Darkness Will Find You
Spacey and suitably dark, this has an intriguing mood and tone to it. This gets some cool synthesizer textures added to the mix as it continues. It's a classy piece of music on a disc that has no shortage of class.
Lucid
I really love the mellow electronics groove of this cut. There is so much magic and charm to it. There are some vocals (processed as samples) on this. To me this feels a bit like what you might get if you combined jazz with Pink Floyd's Meddle album. Around the half-way mark an organ takes command and moves it in more rocking directions.
 
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