Caterina Barbieri - Spirit Exit Music Album Reviews

Caterina Barbieri - Spirit Exit Music Album Reviews
Crafted at home in a period of unusual focus, the Italian synthesist’s latest album feels like a reflection of a world gone haywire: one part prayer, one part screaming at the void.

Holiness has a way of creeping into unexpected spaces. Caterina Barbieri’s Spirit Exit, her first foray on light-years, the label she founded after 2017’s lauded Patterns of Consciousness, is proof that the same spirit that takes hold of you in a basement club can also reach inside the walls of a locked apartment while a virus ravages the city outside. In Barbieri’s case, the space was Milan, the time 2020, and the synth virtuoso’s latest project is an aptly named portal between chaos and transcendence.

Uncertainty lets the light in, and the Italian composer’s music, created on a custom modular synth that she thinks of “more like a mechanical fortune teller,” is incandescent with discovery. The songs are an unexpected but faithful reflection of a world gone haywire: one part prayer, one part screaming at the void. Layer by layer, Spirit Exit unfolds odd-couple pairings of electronica with elements inspired by minimalism, classical guitar, and machine learning. Her influences are as bracing as the songs themselves: St. Teresa d’Avila’s 16th-century mysticism, post-humanist philosophy, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Listening to these sprawling, ecstatic compositions feels like pulling back an endless series of curtains—particularly on standout “Canticle of Cryo,” a seven-and-a-half-minute odyssey of high, plaintive vocals and arpeggios stabbed with rumbling bass notes.

As on previous compositions (like 2017’s excellent “TCCTF”), Spirit Exit is rich in slow builds and intense, polyphonic soundscapes that feel intimate despite their eeriness. But here, Barbieri trades length for depth, crafting eight arresting tracks that are more pointed and purposeful than in the past. “Broken Melody” is the shortest, at 4:26, and proves a visceral, fanged testament to how quickly these compositions can seduce. At its center is a melody that might’ve been borrowed from a medieval canticle, but it’s the texture she drapes over this foundation that imbues the song with its uncanny power—layers of fuzz and Auto-Tuned harmonies, mechanical notes pinging in the background. “Even if you’re gone, I will haunt you,” she opens, high and reverberating, like a voice emanating from a cave.

Spirit Exit reflects subtle but important changes to Barbieri’s songwriting process, which she amended to fit the constraints of the pandemic. Where previous tracks took shape in concert halls and across tours, iterated and refined in community, she created this record in her home studio over a two-month period. The resulting album is taut and heightened, as captivating as her previous work but more condensed. The songs are an engaging intellectual puzzle, but they’re also incantatory and beautiful in their simplicity.

Barbieri’s dualities—holy and profane, ancient and newfangled, ecstatic and doomed—give Spirit Exit its potency. In pinging arpeggios and harpsichord-like tones, she finds a middle ground between a hymnal and a Wendy Carlos song, and in her eerily processed vocals, she nestles newfound emotional resonance inside electronic pulses. For music that evokes empty clubs and shuttered churches, built on patterns dictated by a “mechanical fortune teller,” its humanity is its most haunting quality.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Caterina Barbieri - Spirit Exit Music Album Reviews Caterina Barbieri - Spirit Exit Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, July 15, 2022 Rating: 5

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