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California-based experimental brass player, sonic researcher, composer and educator Mattie Barbier’s solo album threads is a personal investigation into questions of space, resonance, and evolving identity. The album was recorded in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown at The Tank Center for Sonic Arts, a highly reverberant, repurposed water tank, in Rangley, Colorado, deep within the rural hills of the Mountain West, in October 2020. Barbier played there the euphonium and trombone.

Barbier sees this work also as defining their non-binary personality of theirs. «Of the uncertainty of where non-binaryness fits as a parent – of remaining a dad? or at least being treated as one and learning to accept the lack of responsibility, it’s allowed. Of trying to unlearn the patriarchal benefits I’ve happily accepted», they write in the liner notes.

Threads investigate the relation between Barbier’s inventive technical capacity, focusing on the intonation, noise, and physical processes of his instruments, and the unique acoustics of The Tank. Barbier seeks to relinquish the control and directness of solo playing in order to shift one’s ears towards freely producing sound you cannot control, but only exist with and within. The Tank gave him a feeling of a place where the sounds exist within a space of presence during times of chaos and uncertainty.

The five pieces are distinct, resonant and meditative drones and let their deep-toned vibrations float gently and patiently in The Tank’s reverberating space. These abstract but calm vibrations slowly accumulate into ripple-like, elusive movements and fill the space with their quiet but commanding presence. The last piece «coda» even suggests a beautiful, lyrical melody. This thoughtful and intriguing sonic journey may recalibrate the listener’s listening sensitivities.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Mattie Barbier (tb, euphonium)

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