- Eight singular variations on a modern experimental anthem.
- "Although she uses a mathematical approach, Barbieri's work is brought to life by generative music techniques [that] allow for an ever-changing sound within a set of strict parameters," wrote Layla Fassa in her 2019 review of Caterina Barbieri's Ecstatic Computation. That album, the Italian artist's fourth, features what might be her magnum opus, "Fantas," a sprawling synth odyssey that takes you above the clouds.
Barbieri takes a similar approach to the curation of Fantas Variations, which offers a diverse mix of singular talent as well as a snapshot of some of the women innovating in experimental music today. (The real list could send the tracklist soaring into double digits.) Whether you're an established fan or new to Barbieri's work, you should leave your shoes at the door with Fantas Variations—this is far from just another remix album. It's more like a classical composition. These aren't just remixes, but full on covers and reinterpretations.
The LP opens with Evelyn Saylor's "Variation For Voices," featuring a backing choir of celestial singers (Lyra Pramuk, Annie Garlid and Stine Janvin) who sound like angels singing a sublime hymn. Their repetitive yet constantly shifting tones remind me of the work of minimalists like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, or computer music pioneer Laurie Spiegel—artists who helped set the scene for current-generation torchbearers like Barbieri. Bendik Giske also uses the voice, alongside his weapon of choice, the saxophone. His effort is darker, with sax and voice swirling and decaying around each other, making for a cinematic but sombre soundscape.
Barbieri's longtime friend, composer and organist Kali Malone pitches things down for a reflective meditation on "Fantas" that features not one but two wheezing organs. Italian guitarist Walter Zanetti also takes things somewhere meditative, warm and acoustic, reconstructing the original note-for-note on "Fantas For Electric Guitar." It's a nice easter egg knowing that Barbieri's own musical roots lay in her learning the electric guitar long before moving into the spellbinding realm of Buchla synthesisers.
The two shortest tunes on the album are also the most club-ready. Baseck brings a different kind of intensity on "Fantas Hardcore," a fierce and bludgeoning rave track that should appeal to any techno DJs who are inclined to play harder. More melodic, Carlo Maria's world-building on "Fantas Resynthesized For 808 And 202" would suit a left-leaning Ibiza audience.
On the other hand, Jay Mitta's singeli variation reimagines Fantas as part of the strain of East African music that he pioneered. Rattling-fast drum patterns and effervescent synth bubbles blend seamlessly with the original stems, creating a marching, almost anthemic feel. Coming in at over 12 minutes, it's the only version that exceeds the original "Fantas" in length.
Kara-Lis Coverdale, the gifted Canadian experimental composer (who we profiled in 2018) sounds things out with "Fantas Morbida." Poignant and inspired, it's a short solo piano cover shaped with a whiff of the same magic that defined Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th."
Fantas Variations is a superlative record that speaks to disparate audiences between experimental, classical and club circles. Across an hour of different reinterpretations, each contributor brings something unique to the altar, unified by Barbieri's imaginative vision. It's rare to see an artist continue to meaningfully draw so much emotion from the same stone.
01. Evelyn Saylor - Fantas Variation For Voices feat. Lyra Pramuk, Annie Garlid And Stine Janvin
02. Bendik Giske - Fantas For Saxophone And Voice
03. Kali Malone - Fantas For Two Organs
04. Walter Zanetti - Fantas For Electric Guitar
05. Jay Mitta - Singeli Fantas
06. Baseck - Fantas Hardcore
07. Carlo Maria - Fantas Resynthesized For 808 And 202
08. Kara-Lis Coverdale - Fantas Morbida