I am no electronic music expert. That said, while I may not be able to set up a sequencer or edit midi files I have dabbled with the odd synthesizer on occasion. One of the nice things about electronic music is also one of it’s greatest downfalls, it’s extremely accessible to the average kid with a five year old second-hand Macbook. This means that for every half-decent composer out there (and I think electronic artists are more composers than musicians but that’s another discussion entirely), you will have to listen to a metric fuck-ton of horrendous dubstep artists who managed to cobble something together in a pirated German language copy of Ableton live. One of the greatest sins in electronic music that I have noticed is the tendency to be too “busy” and have too much going on to have a cohesive musical structure. Image by Barbarossa is thankfully not afflicted by this shortcoming and is rather minimalistic by electronic music standards.
The title track “Imager” begins with a lone lead synth line and the slightly modulated before increasing in complexity and mixing in some well layered harmonies. “Imager” is a bit of an odd choice for an album opener but is an alright song on its own merits if a bit simplistic. “Home” takes an approach reminiscent of 90’s Trip-Hop with a heavy Mellotron presence and sampled tremelo guitar bits. “Dark Hopes,” my favorite of the album, is the perfect balance between Barbarossa’s musical sensibilities and airy vocal ability. “Dark Hopes” is channeling Portishead with a Fender Rhodes piano and acoustic drum sample opening and gradually adding more layers of synths to create a well defined but layered soundscape that creates an adept mix of musical elements.
“Silent Island” is another album highlight, featuring a driving bass synth line that is expertly mixed in with mellotron and expertly constructed vocal harmonies. When I stated before that Barbarossa avoids being too “busy” I should have put an asterisk. “Human Feel” falls into this trap by having too many different elements going into the song without having a feel as a cohesive whole, and feels like a bunch of different parts were thrown in slapdash.
Barbarossa has managed to make a well crafted electronica album with a good sonic balance (generally) and distinct design philosophy.