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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Richard Barbieri

Planets + Persona

Review by Gary Hill

Richard Barbieri is best known for his work with Porcupine Tree. This is his new solo album. It's electronic, as one might guess. It's essentially instrumental, but there are some female vocals (they just happen to be more like instrumentation and either non-lyrical or not in English). This is clearly experimental and not the kind of thing that will have mainstream appeal. It has quite a wide range, though and is actually very strong as long as you are open to "out of the box" music.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 2 at
Track by Track Review
Solar Sea

This starts almost tentatively and works out to sort of a trippy electronic tapestry. There are samples of female vocals over the top. This is percussive along with the other elements. It's perhaps more rhythmic than it is melodic, but it is both. At times it is more stripped back and exploratory with the melodic things taking the driver's seat. It's definitely minimalist in a lot of ways, though.

New Found Land
This is much more "song-like." It has some jazzy textures mostly from the horn at the start. There is a drop back to things that land perhaps somewhere closer to what used to be called "New Age." All in all, this is a much more accessible piece than the opener was. Later there is a nice blend between electronic elements and a rather classical music profile.
Night of the Hunter
There are definitely world music elements at play at the start of this piece. It works from there gradually into more trippy territory. There seems to be some psychedelia grafted onto this mellower electronic skeleton. As the piece works forward there are some more organic elements that emerge. There are definitely parts of this that make me think of a modern version of early Pink Floyd. This transitions through quite a few intriguing things as it grows and adapts. Rather freeform jazzy elements take it at the end.
Interstellar Medium
Tuned percussion type sounds guide a lot of the start of this. There are some soundbites that seems like radio-chatter. It drops down to almost a false ending at one point. Then it rises back up to the kind of stuff we heard before. A female voice is heard at times over the top. More of that radio chatter is heard later.
Piano leads this off, and the cut builds from there with electronic meets textural ambiance angles. Some female vocals come over the top, but not in a real lyrical way (at least not in English). This works through some changes and alterations, but remains quite mellow and trippy as it does so. Mid-track it turns to a bit more driving electronic sound to continue. It turns more jazzy as it rises up beyond there and the saxophone works it forward.
Shafts of Light
Atmospherics bring us into this number. Some world music elements emerge. There are even some nature sounds. The cut works forward in a rather sedate and organic way, but with an artificial edge. The more electronic elements eventually emerge to create their own tapestry for a time from the previous one. Then it all shifts for some acoustic guitar before those two elements seem to merge and play off one another. There are some cool bits of sound later that feel like backwards tracked things. Some saxophone is heard over the top in fine fashion, too.
Solar Storm
Percussive things lead us out here. It gets little blips of sound on top of that. There is definitely a tuned percussion vibe as it works forward. Some sounds a bit like animals in the jungle are heard, too. Then waves of ominous electronic textures emerge over the top of the arrangement. It eventually shifts out into the most rocking stuff of the whole disc. There are some decidedly King Crimson-like things that emerge as this presses forward. The sax really screams over the top here, too. It's like the whole album has been working toward this kind of powerful explosive resolution. It drops back to the electronics with an almost jazz-like rhythm section from there. Then it grows back out in to a jazzy kind of rocking jam.
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