Japan and Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri releases his most sonically expansive work to date, with Planets + Persona. It is the third Barbieri solo album, but the first to feature such a wide pallet of instrumentation. Vintage analogue synthesizers combine with acoustic performances and jazz elements. Twisted voices are always present, though not in a language we can recognize. Barbieri skilfully utilizes the talents of a pan-European core of musicians to produce an album that marries synthesized sounds with organic instrumentation to conjure up vivid, colorful and allusive soundscapes. It's a skillful commingling of texture and tone, mood and musicality.
Recorded in London, Italy and Sweden, this is easily Barbieri's most ambitious solo work with a central theme of duality that runs through the album. The title alone – Planets + Persona alludes to this, and the dialectic theme is a constant throughout the contrasting and shape-shifting sounds of the album. Take, for example, "Night of the Hunter" – inspired by Charles Laughton's only directorial movie, the piece moves through subtle shifts of atmosphere and emphasis, through melodic, dream-like sequences through to harsher tones; it's a piece that builds to a profound cumulative effect.
Elsewhere, "Solar Storm" shifts gears artfully, with Percy Jones' sometimes percussive bass work contrasting to the smoother synthesizer textures incisively. Barbieri's purely solo "Interstellar Medium" shows that his ability to develop and realize a theme under his own auspices that underscores his innate creativity. It's but one aspect of a thoroughly engrossing and immersive album.
Highlighting the album's central theme of duality, the artwork features photographic scenes of dramatic Icelandic landscapes. Double 180g heavyweight vinyl edition in gatefold cover cut at 45rpm for maximum quality. Mastered by Simon Heyworth.