"As an album Utility is an evolved hybrid, a higher being; it represents a new high-water mark, something to aspire towards"
For those familiar with Barker’s unconventional and uncompromising take on techno, ‘Utility’ feels something like the main event. Here, Barker not only steps away from the pack, he fosters an Elysian colony on a new world, populating it with wondrously enigmatic music.
Even the most synthesised products have their roots in organic matter: whilst it is is irrevocably a product of mechanical objects, ‘Utility‘ marks a line at the synesthetic border of robotic automata and biological phenomena, of emotion and energy. Barker plays the alchemist, binding juxtapositioning elements into a new chimeric entity.
Rhythms shape themselves into auditory Fibonacci spirals and kaleidoscopic fragments, riding not on intrusive kick drums and feigned energy, but on naturally propulsive musical arrangement. The result is an endlessly refreshing listen, one which doesn’t force or require a certain emotion or response. There’s a resulting sense of idiosyncrasy, of elevation to that plane reserved for peerless creators without direct comparison.
For every pound of energy contained within ‘Utility’ there is an equal countermeasure that brings a sense of peace. Equally, amongst the more ambient tracks selected for the release there is a pervading sense of patient energy that seems as if it requires just a slight push to ignite. This is just another way in which ‘Utility’ sits at the periphery, on the edge of worlds.
Perhaps there are clues to the secret techniques behind the forging of ‘Utility’ in the titles of the parts: ‘Paradise Engineering’, ‘Experience Machines’, ‘Gradients of Bliss’, ‘Hedonic Treadmill‘, ‘Models Of Wellbeing‘. They hold a mirror to the world of clubbing, and paint a hedonistic and frenzied picture of landscapes ruled by machines, piping celestial music into cavernous rooms of endlessly replenishing ravers.
In form of criticism there are few arguments that are not based predominantly on a desire for more, and although Barker leans heavily on the unique sonic palette he’s constructed there are myriad shades and gradients here. Colour is intrusively present in the hyperactive flicker of ‘Experience Machines‘, a glimmering 4-dimensional joy ride that could rotate through its permutations forever, whereas ‘Gradients of Bliss‘ marks a change of tack, summoning deep and cavernous echoes.
As an album ‘Utility‘ is an evolved hybrid, a higher being; it represents a new high-water mark, something to aspire towards. Yet, what could well be the greatest achievement of ‘Utility’ is a metaphoric recreation of a memory of the perfect night: all the world in extravagant variety, veins running with the lifeblood of thousands of disparate and unified dancers hooked on the majesty of losing oneself in music, rendered and pressed to 12” vinyl.
‘Utility’ is scheduled for release 6 September 2019 via Ostgut Ton. Order a vinyl, CD or digital copy from Bandcamp.
A1. Paradise Engineering
A3. Experience Machines
B1. Gradients Of Bliss
B2. Hedonic Treadmill
C1. Models Of Wellbeing
D2. Die-Hards Of The Darwinian Order