Italian-born and now Berlin-based electronic producer Caterina Barbieri emerged back in 2014 with her debut cassette-only album ‘Vertical’ on Cassauna, and since then she’s continued to release two further albums exploring themes related to machine intelligence and object oriented perception in sound, through a focus on minimalism, as well as perform at festivals including Mutek and Unsound.
A year on from her preceding album ‘Born Again In The Voltage, this fourth album ‘Ecstatic Computation’ offers up her debut release on Editions Mego, and sees Barbieri employing complex sequencing techniques and pattern-based operations to explore artefacts of human perception and memory processes, the aim being to induce a sense of ecstasy and contemplation. While they’re frequently as enervating as they are blissfully relaxing, there’s no doubt that the seven tracks collected here easily represent some of Barbieri’s most ambitious work to date, as equally perplexing as it is immediate.
Running in at over ten minutes, ‘Fantas’ opens this collection with its most epic and sprawling moment, shifting from a vast oceanic wash of ambient sound, out of which emerge spiralling Tangerine Dream-esque synth arpeggios, their harmonic peaks being tweaked and filtered, the cycling sequences gradually slowing to a crawl as they echo like neon trails out into the darkness, only to sudden crash into a chaotic mass of noisy processing at the very end.
‘Closest Orbit To Your Approach’ meanwhile starts off as a sloshing wash of churning digitally-processed textures before elegantly glassy ambient synth sequences rise into the foreground, the synths morphing into monophonic gamecore tones before being slowed down to a woozy crawl against sparse rhythmic echoes and what sound like distorted piano chords.
Elsewhere, ‘Arrows Of Time’ offers up this album’s most graceful and serene moment, as wordless female vocal harmonies soar and intersect against a minimalistic backdrop of sparse, jarring keyboard notes, before ‘Pinnacles Of You’ takes things back out into glittering IDM as pulsing electronic sequences split and refract off into bright melodic layers in a manner that calls to mind one of Plaid’s sunnier moments. All up, ‘Ecstatic Computation’ is an impressive and beguiling new album from Barbieri that takes several listens before it really starts to reveal its hidden layers.