A thrilling album by the Italian synth artist.
Barbieri's ability to tease melody from electricity is due in part to being a classically trained guitarist. "The music I'm doing now is basically guitar music but with synthesizers," she recently told Resident Advisor. It brings to mind Laurie Spiegel, who drew from her days playing the banjo in order to compose certain parts of The Expanding Universe. But the guitar's influence goes further. There are multiple instances on the album where Barbieri absolutely shreds.
Take the gorgeous "Fantas." It slowly lifts itself out of a murky first minute, like fog dissipating to reveal a sunrise. There are just enough twists to the lead melody to keep it fresh, and just as one climax is reached, at the track's midpoint, a new movement starts to bring the mood back to an anticipatory creep. In the last 30 seconds, just as the tempo slows to a crawl, a barrage of crashing sounds take center stage. "Closest Approach To Your Orbit" reflects a similar approach, highlighting a pristine center comparable to the eye of a storm. "Bow Of Perception" contains the album's strongest stroke of anarchy. The cycling tones of the first six minutes suddenly go rogue, bouncing around in an experimental electro jam until the whole thing halts.
Some compositions on Ecstatic Computation gesture to the divine. "Arrows Of Time" is in the style of a medieval choral piece, featuring vocalists and what sounds like a harpsichord. It would sound at home performed in a gothic cathedral. But it's the album's tension between control and chaos that best evokes ecstatic states. If Barbieri's last album was defined by subtle shifts meant to tranquilise and hypnotise, Ecstatic Computation is marked by sudden breaks from predictability. Stylistic influences and sonic textures are varied, yet they're cohesive. The result is an album that's both provocative and blissful.