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Barbarossa – Bloodlines

on August 07, 2013, 12:00am

Prior to Bloodlines, most of Barbarossa’s tunes subsisted on organic instruments. This record, however, is anything but. But just because he’s switched to electronic music, that doesn’t mean that London’s James Mathè has left his acoustic sensibilities behind. In fact, much of Bloodlines, while created with Casiotone keyboards, drum machines and analog synths, actually sounds as though it could just as easily be covered on guitar, unplugged from anything but Mathè’s own deep-seated conviction that music should be a form of catharsis. There is much that is beautiful on Bloodlines, and much to be uncovered through repeated listens.

The funk-inspired “Turbine,” one of the earliest tracks, is a break from form for Mathè, and it chugs along in a way that seems labored, but not entirely unpleasant to the ears. Tracks like “Butterfly Plague” are so ephemeral as to almost let you forget their existence, the way a good massage leaves your body feeling untouched. “We can’t forget where we’re coming from,” he sings on “Pagliaccio”, possibly to remind himself not to forget his original musical goals in this new endeavor. “Battles” is one of the most successful tracks on the album while also serving as a kind of religious missive. “With you on the inside, now on my left and my right, I’ll win these battles of mine,” Mathès sings. It’s a subtle stunner that gently plays on universal emotions.

Although Bloodlines is a solid effort, it never seems to really take flight; alternately quiet and bold, it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a testament to Mathè’s artistic transformation or a kind of tentative experiment, to be abandoned if it doesn’t pan out. It’s rewarding to those who put in the effort to listen, but the tragedy is that its uncertainty will hide its successes.

Essential Tracks: “Turbine”, “Butterfly Plague”, and “Battles”

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