Caterina Barbieri Enters The Machine – An Exploration of Time & The Human Psyche In ‘Ecstatic Computation’

Caterina Barbieri | Ecstatic Computation | Important Records

Release Date: May 3rd, 2019

Feature Image Credit: Frank Zerban

Spiralling intricacies within the weaving and sculpting of patterns; twisted within the other, a basket cradled with sequences of electronic timbre – to reach within a processed depth, algorithms, constructed mathematics as an expression of the self. A juxtaposition between a typically rigid structure, able to break through into the natural; artificial, yet with a sincerity that boasts organic personality. The breakthrough in modern technology that allows for such experimentation is bright, new; an excitement in the present, and advance into our visions of the future; self-exploration in the automatic, a minimalist psychedelic delve into the subconscious.  

Italian composer Caterina Barbieri’s latest full-length album, ‘Ecstatic Computation’, is the purest personification of its title. A further exploration of her unique sound, introduced to audiences in 2017’s ‘Patterns of Consciousness’ dons an intricate slither into the personality of a machine-oriented perception; the complexity of artificial intelligence, a difficult, yet perceptive contemplation through sound. Barbieri’s experimentation with the complexity of algorithms; a unique network of patterns constructed, as the composer traverses through human perception – a warped, yet oddly relatable understanding of the perception of time and our self- reflection.

Fantas’, the 10 minute opening track to ‘Ecstatic Computation‘, greets listeners with an eerie soundscape, a delicate drone. The frigid cold of the echoic soundscape bounces between icicles within a proverbial cave, glistening as lost souls reaching forth, fingers stretched outward as an electronic fuzz peeks through; a slightly disconcerting foreboding. Seemingly chaotic, yet with deep feeling of underlying, artificial structure. The synthesizer tone growing louder in treble tinge, breaking through into a science-fiction melody. Progressing forth, layers of sound dancing with the others, pitch moving intricately between an alien sound. The progression of the track mimics images of traversing an alien planet; whether in astral terrain, or internal contemplation – slowing into tenderness, a sweet, melodic comfort as a precursor to the upbeat synth dance as the track comes to a close.

Closest Approach to Your Orbit’ opens in twisted metallic, a tumultuous scratching; studded with an extraterrestrial tongue, the construction of sound mimicking the chaos of approaching a foreign atmosphere – fast, disconcerting, anxious. The overwhelm of confusion in the machine calms slightly beneath a melody; reminiscent of electronic water droplets, sweeping forward in intricate construction. An artificial voice pierced with a tinge of the organic, a driven beat, reminiscent of natural percussion yet – not quite. Synthesizer bliss unfolds with a bold voice, a video-game nostalgia, a real world, a real human perception – generated by a computer, progressing in it’s confident algorithm. Barbieri’s track allow for moments of reflection within hurricane soundscapes; in minimal drone, abrasive breakthroughs – self-reflection isn’t always quiet.

The final track of the album, ‘Bow of Perception’ opens with more breathing room, a simple melody in between each inhale; an apt personification of Barbieri’s perspective in exploring minimalism, as if looking around a foreign landscape in curiosity. The melody grows more consistent, layering timbre; taking in the sights, processing the world through a different, new set of eyes. The tinge of 80s nostalgia sings, yet a vision of the future accompanies it – extraterrestrial, alien synthesizers as seen from those looking forward to an artificial future – those looking forward, anticipating the future – decades ago.

Caterina Barbieri’s unique approach to the electronic genre is evident in ‘Ecstatic Computation’; processed through intricate algorithms, patterns, a mathematical approach – yet still distinctly human. The complicated perspectives of human consciousness remain clear – a psychedelic, intimate traverse through the eyes of a machine, through the eyes of the tender human experience – the conglomeration of the two. Barbieri’s use of sequencing techniques and algorithmic minimalism explores the human (and machine) psyche in ‘Ecstatic Computation’, allowing an intimacy within very intricately constructed artificiality.

Review by Jenna Dreisenstock

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