Album Review: Michael Barry Rec - 'Continuum'.
In the plethora of albums that land on the mat of a reviewer, it is easy for a few to get lost in the deluge. It’s not easy standing out. There are those released by familiar names that immediately grab the attention, and those that come with sometimes over the top, overblown and over-hyped press releases promising the earth and delivering mixed results. Then there are the small, independent releases made on a shoestring budget sent out without fanfare. Those are the releases that are in danger of disappearing, which is a real shame, for once in a while a real gem is waiting in amongst the swell.
And so it is the case with ‘Continuum’ by Michael Barry-Rec. An instrumentalist from rural Connecticut, there is nothing flash about Michael. With a biography printed on cheap A4 paper and merely two short paragraphs long, he’s content to let the music do the talking. And what stunning, unfussy soundscapes he produces. Barry-Rec’s forte is instrumental guitar music, heavily reminiscent of a 1990’s vocal-less Pink Floyd or indeed David Gilmour’s own ‘On An Island’, sans singing.
The album doesn’t so much as begin, as saunter in, arriving gradually. At times it’s easy to forget that it’s even on, but Barry-Rec works best creating pleasant moods that don’t scream for attention. This is the soundtrack to a life, made as the result of a three-year soul-search that saw him master the pedal steel guitar as well as improbably, the art of stone masonry. There are no walls here, but the pedal steel is all over this album and perhaps that is why it is so reminiscent of Gilmour in both style and temperament.
On the whole it’s nonchalant to the point of sedation, as in the dreamy landscapes of ‘Closkwise’, ‘Sanctum’ and ‘Lotus’. As an album that never raises its pulse to any more than that of a light canter on say, ‘Fields That Never Die’, a relaxed atmosphere is effortlessly created on every track. Where the buoyant ‘Shake Rag Shuffle’ employs a beautiful reverb-laden Hank Marvin-esque sound with shades of Peter Green, ‘Mystified’ too is upbeat, with some tasteful acoustic steel string soloing. The vaguely Chris Isaak tinge of ‘In Visible’ meanwhile, offers yet more understated, lazy grooves, from its simplistic, no frills serene drum-machine beat to its minimalist melody. Finally, the closing pairing of ‘Two Way Dream’ and ‘Buried In The Sky’ might just send the listener into a deep trance.
Clocking in at less than forty minutes, ‘Continuum’ isn’t overlong, and a basic but entirely appropriate production completes a transcendental picture. A guitar album that refreshingly does little to show off, it comes from a place so laid back it’s as horizontal as an x axis. Something to enrich any background, it’s hypnotic. Now close your eyes, you are feeling rather sleepy…
First published on uberrock.co.uk, 5 September 2014.