Works by Jan Bang, Anna Meredith, John Metcalfe, Joby Talbot, Jonathan Harvey et al
Matthew Barley (cello)
Signum Classics SIGCD 846 75:50 mins
Matthew Barley has been performing contemporary works for much of his career, building out the repertoire for cello and electronics in particular. This album is the culmination of these efforts, bringing together several of the pieces he has commissioned for this instrumentation with other works by seminal electronic composers. As a collected work, Electric is haunting and otherworldly, with many of the pieces included exploring the vast potential of reverb. Barley chooses to let the natural timbral imperfections of the cello jar against the clean musical lines and shapes created by the electronics. This textural blend can end up feeling rather unstable – in that beautifully raw way you often get in live performance, when something is being created in real time.
Movements of Jan Bang’s Noticing Things punctuate the programme, its moaning cello part shifting cleverly between traditional cello sounds and more electronic textures. Throughout the album, Barley’s cello shapeshifts, transforming from siren to choir, shimmering to gritty.
With electronic technology that is constantly in development, it’s important to see these works set down with strong recordings that reflect the landscape for and possibilities of contemporary performers and technology. Electric offers us just that.