After The Storm
There. Is. Nothing. Better. Than. A. Clear. Blue. Sky. After The Storm. Taken literally, the track listing for Barem's debut LP represents that fleeting moment when nature puts its house in order, when calm and clarity triumph over chaos. Of course it also works perfectly as a metaphor for those fuzzy moments of self-reflection while sprawled on a hotel bed after another mind-blowing night at the controls, or while taking stock of a musical journey that's about to culminate in a debut album for the internationally-renowned label that motivated you to start making music in the first place. Barem has always offered a more laidback counterpoint to the edgy sounds of some of his label mates. His decision to progress in a deeper, percussive direction began with the Kolimar EP and apart from the dark, ambient intro, this vibe dominates the first half of the album. "Is" and "Nothing" really showcase his skill at concocting instinctive, percussion-driven grooves, expressing a natural inner rhythm that exploits the full stereo field. Rich, rounded drum fills puncture the hidden space behind the beats, shimmering reverbs drench the cymbals while the bass lines remain reassuringly fat and familiar, gently hypnotizing as the LP settles into its groove. By the time we reach "Better," the low pressure is beginning to break. Additional elements gradually make their presence felt as the beats continue to flay and splinter, phasing strings heighten the suspense and a delicate one note riff skips and bounces through spot effects and sprinkled vocal snippets as Barem coolly maintains the growing intrigue. As if to highlight the evolving nature of the LP, the transition to the more dubbed-out "Than" goes almost unnoticed as the gentle undertow begins pulling us into more familiar M_nus territory. Disorienting percussive delays start jarring into the void, indiscernible vocal slurs reverberate out into the corners of the room and warm, acidic bleeps start tapping at the doors of perception. By the time we reach "A," the psychedelics have well and truly kicked in. The percussive onslaught of the preceding tracks gives way to a deeper, mystical atmosphere driven by shakers and hats and offset with cavernous delays and detuned pads that warp and envelope the collective consciousness in the orange-red glow of some ancient tribal ritual. The last four tracks are all about the future. "Clear" gives ground to an abstract, subsonic groove that hisses and crackles like the dying embers of the night, while "Blue" embarks on a spiral dive that represents Barem's new unity of sound in one magic bullet. "Sky" then announces the final ascent with a long, seductive intro that crystallizes into an elegant melody, while the throbbing bass line generates another ecstatic rush of dark energy. On "After The Storm" we're greeted with tribal rhythms, muffled brass sections and a superb fretless bass riff all benefitting from a shift in 6/8 blues time signature that gives the album finale a fittingly reflective sensation.