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CD Review: Barbacana – Barbacana

Barbacana – Barbacana
(Babel BDV13118. CD Review by Chris Parker)

‘Barbed, angular riffs and hive-minded extemporisations’ are promised in Barbacana’s publicity, and the four-piece Anglo-French band deliver all this and more on their eponymous debut album.

The band’s material, all written by keyboard player Kit Downes, reedsman James Allsopp or guitarist/cellist Adrien Dennefeld (save for the slightly manic rolling riff that constitutes the short title-track, composed by Valentin Clastrier), draws on everything from Canterbury-scene prog rock to out and out free jazz and ambient music, variously blending rumbling keyboard sounds and mournful cello with treacly bass clarinet in darkly meditative, seething brews; or setting screaming, scrabbling guitar and blowsy tenor against the feverish, jerky hurtle of Sylvain Darrifourcq’s drums and percussion; or slowly building climactic bluesy meanders from doomy bass clarinet and woozy organ.

Such promiscuous use of textural variety and density, though, doesn’t prevent Barbacana producing prolonged bursts of nervy, occasionally pleasingly galumphing Beefheartian rhythm, and their frequent resort to low-register sounds from bass clarinet, keyboards and cello is intelligently complemented by enough more upbeat passages to ensure that the album as a whole does exactly what it says on the tin: provides ‘a fairground ride that keeps changing direction, switching from roller-coaster to ghost train and back again with capricious wit and skill’.

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