LP version. Black vinyl. Italian composer Caterina Barbieri has spent the best part of a decade breaking apart the rigid structures of electronic music, using advanced, idiosyncratic techniques to build bridges between academic experimental, dance and pop landscapes. Her breakthrough moment came in 2017 with the Important Records-released "Patterns of Consciousness", a confident fusion of analogue synthesis and algorithmic compositional methodology that defined her unique voice. And when she followed it with "Ecstatic Computation" on the legendary Editions Mego label in 2019, wide acclaim ensued, with critics praising its potent fusion of minimalism and trance-inducing synth experimentation. Pitchfork has described her music as "a mind-altering journey" and "a dreamachine for the ears".
Since then Barbieri has worked hard to subvert expectations at every turn, offering an eccentric spin on the remix album with "Fantas Variations" - a selection of collaborations and reworks from friends and inspirations like Kali Malone, Jay Mitta, Evelyn Saylor and Kara-Lis Coverdale - and developing a modish articulation on last year's poetic and densely layered "Spirit Exit". Described by NPR as “deeply psychedelic and, by extension, subversive," the album was more than just a selection of tracks; it launched her own light-years label and arrived alongside an ambitious live experience that developed her philosophy in multiple dimensions, bringing in additional voices like Bendik Giske, Nkisi and Lyra Pramuk and bespoke visuals from Marcel Weber and Ruben Spini.
"Myuthafoo" was written at the same time as "Ecstatic Computation", which Barbieri regards as a sister album. Both albums are based on creative sequencing processes that playfully unravel Barbieri's deep-rooted interest in time, space, memory and emotion. And since she was set to re-release "Ecstatic Computation" on her own light-years imprint with an exclusive new track, it made sense to accompany that album with this intimately entangled set of unreleased recordings. At the time, Barbieri had been touring excessively and her process began to shift in response to that nomadic, interactive energy. Using the Orthogonal ER-101 modular sequencer, Barbieri manually programed patterns into the device and fed them into her arsenal of noise generators, trialling different combinations at each show.
If an idea worked well in the live environment, she would put it to one side, letting longer pieces breathe and transform as they sprung to life and developed organically. It's a process she relates to her interest in cosmogony, the study of the origins of the universe; her music is rooted in the limitations of a small number of options that branch out into a much larger structure, eventually reaching towards an open-ended cosmos of possibility. From 'Math of You', it's clear that the sounds are grounded in a similar sonic philosophy; blipping synth sequences nudge alongside each other harmonically, disrupting trance's addicting euphoria with filigree polyrhythmic pulses. Like 'Fantas' before it, the track is focused around emotionally affecting repeating phrases, but a closer examination reveals hidden intricacies as these phrases flicker like illusions, dissolving and dissipating as they snake and weave.
The album's title track is its most generous and most tender, blunting Barbieri's usually razor-sharp sequences into rubbery möbius strips that twist romantically, bending back on each other. It gazes at the stars from an atemporal vantage point, relying on synapse-popping psychedelic logic as well as established physics. 'Sufyosowirl' meanwhile is rigorous and rhythmic, as melodically charged as pop music and as soaring as Jean-Michel Jarre's lavish stadium electronics. Closing track 'Swirls of You' encases Barbieri's celestial sequences in gaseous vapors, allowing the music to ascend slowly and purposefully until it flickers and fades to nothing. Barbieri's music sounds as if it has a life of its own, endlessly expanding and transmuting until it's able to develop its own rules and gestures. "Myuthafoo" teases an ecosystem where technology and biology are intertwined, and where the past, present and future are part of the same essential narrative.