Though released via Spectrum Spools (which, in this reviewer's opinion, is far and away the preeminent label for 21st-century progressive electronic), Persuasive Barrier would feel at home among the exotic artifacts found on Modern Love and Pre-Cert Home Entertainment. Much like those labels' anchor artists, Demdike Stare and Anworth Kirk, Robert Beatty's Three Legged Race project draws heavily from the synth- and analog-based exploration common to library music and avant-garde electronics as well as '70s horror and science-fiction.
The fact that Beatty is a multimedia artist splitting his time between graphic design and music helps explain his knack for evoking the visual through sound. Indeed, several of the album's compositions are so intensely cinematic that the mind can't help but recall a long list of films while their cryptic percolations and drones seep from the speakers. "Butter Colored Hallway," for example, is the kind of classic sci-fi eeriness you'd expect to hear in any one of the Forbidden Planet knock-offs Hollywood coughed-up in the late '50s and early '60s. "Locked Eyes," meanwhile, exudes the same trippy, psychological alienation common to classic Giallo, such as Argento's The Cat o' Nine Tails or Bava's utterly bizarre Five Dolls For An August Moon.
But despite the vintage imagery it conjures, Persuasive Barrier isn't obsessed with nostalgia. This is where Three Legged Race distinguishes himself from Kirk and Demdike Stare, both of whom practice used-vinyl fetishism shrouded in hauntology's fuzzy antiquity. Beatty, in contrast, tends to temper his love for musty movies and soundtracks through the gritty maximalism of modern American noise (he is, after all, cofounder of raging free-rock pioneers Hair Police). It's a tactic that pops up time and again: the high-pitched frequency zaps littering "Traces of a Wet Crowd," the ping-ponging tones ripping through "Budgeting Air" and, most forcefully, the serrated splinters of feedback bursting from "Permethrin I." After sufficient exposure to this trio of pieces, one gets the distinct impression that Beatty enjoys dragging the past into the present just as much as he does losing himself in the former.
There's also something else at play on Persuasive Barrier, and it has to do with just how personal this music can feel at times. On more than a few tracks lurk expressions of melancholy and alienation, as though Beatty has used the darker tones of old school horror and sci-fi movies to channel the myriad discontents occupying his inner world. This is something that really comes out on the pieces with vocals, such as the title track and the aforementioned "Traces of a Wet Crowd." But it's downright arresting on "Magnetic Bride"—here, the vocals have been mangled into what sounds like an outmoded robot, one whose speech function has deteriorated into listless gurgles and hiccups. A sad thought, isn't it?