Paris Transatlantic Magazine

End Of An Ear

By: Dan Warburton


Language: English

Richard Barrett first came to my attention as a composer loosely affiliated to the so-called New Complexity movement (Brian Ferneyhough, James Dillon, Michael Finnissy et al.) – an early album of instrumental music by the Australian Elision Ensemble on Etcetera is still well worth seeking out – but realising that spending the best part of a year writing a piece that would require about as much rehearsal time and be over and done with in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea is a noble if somewhat thankless endeavour, he did what most sane mortals would do and took up improvisation. But the music he creates with electronics is the perfect illustration of Radu Malfatti was on about when he rather provocatively compared Evan Parker to Ferneyhough in his 2001 PT interview (“[Evan’s] work also is ‘unplayable’ – at least for others – and he seems to be as interested in virtuosity as good old Brian is”). Unlike his previous albums with Paul Obermayer in Furt, Barrett is teamed up here with Ute Wassermann, whose voice also appears to be at the origin of many of the sounds he conjures up from his boxes of tricks. Once more it’s thorny stuff, splats, fizzes and gurgles hurled around the stereo space with glorious (seeming) abandon, but it’s somehow more human and touching than Furt. Put that down no doubt to Wassermann, who manages to explore a whole range of whistles, gargles and yodels without ever sounding as if she’s dying / giving birth to triplets / trying to stifle an orgasm (delete where appropriate according to the improvising vocalist of your choice). All in all, it’s a thrilling ride. As for the cover photography, if that’s pollen magnified several thousand times, no wonder I suffer from hay fever. So get your allergy tablets, hankies and inhalers at the ready and get a noseful of this.