CD REVIEW: Lee Barry - Dome City
By Alex Jasperse - 11/13/2006 - 04:24 PM EST
Artist: Lee Barry
Album: Dome City 
Label: Consilient Records
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7.5/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 7.5/10
Our homes are filled with stuff. We paint the walls and place furniture. We invite friends and family inside. In short, we add life to our surroundings. But what we don’t always do is fill these spaces with sound. Sure, we play music in the background now and then, or spend some time listening to it – but using it as a texture, or as a new dimension to paint the sonic space around us, how many of us really do that? Welcome home to Lee Barry’s music.
Barry’s latest release, Dome City, is a mixture of ambient soundscapes infused with orchestral, jazz and funk grooves. Upon listening, it’s interesting to note that the album’s allure lies in its duality. From the more familiar sounds, such as The Dada People and Imitation Man (with its distorted guitar lines and bass grooves), it reminds the listener that there’s really nothing to be scared of. But what makes this album more interesting is its unfamiliarity. Under ambient washes of emotive sounds and traces of melody, is a lush electronic creativity that leaves you in this natural, music-induced high.
With shivering string sections coloring LaGrange Point’s entrance, the listener experiences the eerie sensation of someone breathing over their shoulder. It’s airy and dark textures encircle with its tense riffs moving left and right, but things soon change as all that tension comes to a halt – with the vaporization of the string section. Flowing nicely into The Dada People – somewhat similar to Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine – computer sounds beep and bleep, before launching the listener into an infectious 1980s-sounding bass and guitar groove.
Unusable Signals is laced with textural depths. One moment the rhythm of a typewriter communicates something familiar in the room with you– only to reveal the sound of water suddenly lapping up beside you. A voice comforts, before you’re swept back into pulsating bass lines that are decorated with a slow groove that’ll capture your imagination once again.
Where the album goes a bit off course is with the two-part Kuda Bux (the man with the X-ray eyes). Although it gets off on the right leg with part-one’s classical guitar playing, part-two feels like you’ve suddenly warped to some sort of disco space bar. (This might be the right point to mention that yes, this is a thematic album based around a doomed utopia on terra-formed Mars – but, that being said, the song still feels out of place).
From Frame 313 onwards, the album shines its brightest. The Large Glass and Lost in the Circuitry are intriguing, powerful and tuneful songs, featuring massed synthesized sounds with gentle tapping and babbling sequencer pulses. The overall feel for the latter part of the album is purely experimental and contemporary, revelling in lots of prominent echo and reverb effects.
For many, though, the most memorable track on this album may well be its final piece, No One Sending. It’s simplistic string arrangement, and an almost recognizable (yet intriguingly original) melody strikes a place deep in your heart. Emotionally, it’s dark, but once it’s come to an end, you’ll be begging for more. Just brilliant.
There really isn’t a lot that is ‘traditional’ on this disc. With all of the tracks routed in the synthesizer and electronic worlds, it offers up some strong compositions with a nice variety of pace, mood and style.
Where it falls short is in the track order. From minimalism to 1980s synthesized sounds or from classic guitar lines to jingle-like riffs – it makes you scratch your head. At points you really have to take a moment or two, to figure out where you are, and where the contemplation is taking you.
So how does this fill that sonic space I was talking about earlier? Although this album has two sides to it – the first half being more familiar, and the second more ambient and textural, it allows for new dimensions of deep, meditative thought. Enjoyed as an environmental experience (within your home, with company, etc.), or as a private experience (with a good pair of headphones, of course), it’ll definitely add a few new colours to everyday life.
The Verdict: 7.6/10
For more information, contact Lee Barry at email@example.com
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