Even the offcuts from this Italian composer are top-notch

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Caterina Barbieri’s Myuthafoo: Trance-inducing music that’s made for deep listening.

Caterina Barbieri, Myuthafoo

The Italian composer and musician Caterina Barbieri has an angular but ethereal presence. Her hair is cut into a sharp, sleek bob and her makeup tends towards either minimal or dramatic. She favours edgy, avant-garde clothing and overall is the picture of an experimental modern artist. But there’s a softness to her aesthetic too, in the shrouds of fog and smoke that often envelop her on stage, and in the abstract, impressionistic images often used to accompany her work.

It’s a duality that is replicated in her music, which is created by machines, but never in a way that feels rote or mechanical, even when motifs are looped endlessly. In Barbieri’s hands, repetition helps her music achieve a kind of supernatural quality that is arguably more difficult to realise with acoustic instruments. Her approach, she says, is more metaphysical than technical, concerned with “a philosophy of sound” and playing with temporality. “I like to work with acceleration and deceleration of time and to create the sort of suspended state where you have this feeling of running while being still,” she says.

Barbieri trained in classical guitar but switched to analogue synthesisers when she realised she could make music on her own, free from the constraints of being the only woman in the band. Her latest album, Myuthafoo, arrives a month before the reissue of her most acclaimed album, 2019’s Ecstatic Computations, including a new bonus track. Myuthafoo was composed at the same time as Ecstatic Computations, and largely came into being as live experiments created with the Orthogonal ER-101 modular sequencer, plugged into various synthesisers. The best of these experiments were set aside and are collected here as a more subdued but no less interesting companion piece to Ecstatic Computations.

The 1:20 opener Memory Leak is one of the shortest cuts in her catalogue, a cacophonous, unnerving blur of distorted drones. The album takes on a more meditative flavour thereafter, its tracks more uniform in tone than on her previous LPs. Where Memory Leak conjured a robot malfunctioning, on Math of You the polyphonic notes ring clear as bells, its crystalline arpeggios glinting like icicles in sunlight. The notes emitted are high-pitched but rounded, as if existing inside bubbles, and soaked in reverb to further blunt their edges.

The title track is an anagram of Math of You and uses the same melody pattern, but the notes are made elastic and elongated here, coated in a filmy, frosted glow. Alphabet of Light is similarly lysergic. At once ecclesiastical and cosmic, it’s probably the most melancholy track here, although whirring motifs add light and dynamism towards the end. Across Barbieri’s music, there’s the feeling of constant motion, even if it’s sometimes at a glacial pace.

Sufyososwirl and Swirls of Light are also based on similar melodies but where the former is bold, bright and propulsive, with tail-end synths that pop like percussion, the latter is chilly, sombre and ends almost too abruptly, although that could be said of the album overall, at only six tracks long. It’s trance-inducing music that lends itself to deep listening through headphones, or better still, via a great sound system in an imposing, cavernous venue.

Barbieri’s last album, 2022’s Spirit Exit was written during the pandemic, which she found particularly gruelling. She thrives on the connection she forges with audiences at her live shows and Myuthafoo came out of those conversations with the crowd, where captivated silence is the best measure of success. Notwithstanding its teasing brevity, it was a no-brainer to release it. Even Barbieri’s offcuts are premium quality.

– Annabel Ross

Jayda G, Guy

To date, the name Jayda G has been synonymous with joy. Born Jayda Guy, the Canadian producer and DJ blew up in 2017 after her performance at Amsterdam’s Dekmantel Festival went viral – an hour of upbeat funk and disco accompanied by Guy’s full-bodied, rapturous dancing.

Poignant and heartfelt: Jayda G’s new album is a tribute to her late father.

Next, Guy released a string of increasingly impressive, soulful disco EPs, followed by her 2019 debut album Significant Changes. It melded her disco/soul sensibilities with a message; Guy was completing a master’s degree in resource and environmental management at the same time, focused on the human impact on orca whales in Canada. One track was even called Orca’s Reprise, another sampled a Canadian biologist. This unlikely collision of styles and themes worked surprisingly well, deftly interweaving downtempo, moodier cuts with more straightforward disco.

On Guy, Guy’s second album, she reprises this binary, chronicling the life and death of her father William Richard Guy in a suite of sunny dance-pop. Guy sr. died of cancer when Jayda was just 10 years old, but recorded an autobiography of sorts before his death, some 11 hours worth of tape. His reflections appear as introductions and interludes on the LP, while Guy buries the gravity of his stories with bright choruses and peppy beats. She sings on every track – something she’d only done once before, on her Both of Us EP, produced by Fred again.. – and while her voice isn’t exactly a weapon (and I wonder how well it will translate live), her sweet vocals are the right choice for the deeply personal subject matter.

William Guy had a short but full life, coloured by a stint in the army at 18 years old (he was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War), returning home to find his first wife with another man, and inadvertently getting caught up in the 1968 race riots in Washington D.C. (the latter tale is told in the dark disco pop of Blue Lights). Scars is about Jayda’s father finally confronting the bullies who used to wait outside his high school and beat him up. Its housey bassline and 4/4 beat are more club-centred than the other tracks here, and while the verse is specific, the “I’ve got scars/and I’m burning and exploding/I’ve got scars/and I promise you I’m growing” chorus is universal enough to resonate widely.

The music video for Circle Back Around tells the story behind the song more clearly and comprehensively. There’s a clip of Guy sr. relaying getting caught by the cops as a kid for stealing candy and, most poignantly, footage of young Jayda with her father, her joyful dancing signposting her bright musical future.

The video ends with a line from William’s recorded diary that actually signs off album closer 15 Foot. Pondering his imminent death and wondering if “to learn how to be companions and loving to one another” might be his life’s greatest lesson, he says finally “what I do know is that I love you very much”. It’s about as beautiful a message as one can receive from their father, and drives home the meaning of the album where it can elsewhere get lost under relentlessly cheery music.

A sprinkling of sombre and slower moments would’ve made for a richer, more interesting album, but it remains a poignant, heartfelt tribute as well as a possible play for increased crossover appeal. Having been nominated for a Grammy for Both of Us, and with remixes for Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa under her belt, Guy has the goods to appeal far beyond clubland.

– Annabel Ross

Foo Fighters, But Here We Are

Foo Fighters’ 11th studio album was no certainty, but its release this week coincides with two festival performances in Germany and a combined two-day audience of 150,000 people. Even on the grand scale the group have operated at for almost three decades, these shows mark a monumental return following the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Hawkins joined Foo Fighters in 1997 and recorded eight albums with the band. He was also founding member Dave Grohl’s closest friend for 25 years. Tribute concerts for Hawkins were held in London and Los Angeles last September, featuring Queen and Paul McCartney.

It was amid this heavy environment that Foo Fighters secretly worked on the new album, dedicated to Hawkins, and to Grohl’s mother, Virginia, who died in August, aged 84.

Dave Grohl, on stage with Foo Fighters in New Hampshire last week. The band’s album But Here We Are is out now.Credit:

First song and lead single, Rescued, pulls no punches from the moment Grohl bellows a cathartic opening salvo: “It came in a flash, it came out of nowhere/ It happened so fast, and then it was over.”

Fans of the group’s stadium shows, including singalong anthems Times Like These and Everlong, revel in Grohl’s heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and the band’s powerful, melodic rock ‘n’ roll.

Grohl began his musical journey as a drummer, finding fame with Nirvana, but the 54-year-old has evolved into popular music’s ultimate showman – talented, entertaining and empathetic. It’s why fans have stuck by Dave all these years, even watching their own kids become fans, too.

Rescued delves quickly and deeply into the enormous loss Grohl and his bandmates are feeling, but also offers a message about the healing power of music – a communal act the fans can share on record, and together with the band on stage.

“We’re all free to some degree, to dance under the lights,” Grohl sings, as guitars wail and the energy and emotion of Rescued builds to a mighty crescendo. “I’m just waiting to be rescued, bring me back to life… We’re all just waiting to be rescued tonight/ Rescue me tonight.” It’s a song that’s made to be played live.

Standout track Under You is catchy from the second it erupts in a swirl of guitars and feel-good energy. Grohl can growl with the best rock singers, but purr like the Beach Boys, too. Under You has that special X factor he’s made his own, and it’s played at perfect hip-shaking pace.

Hear Voices pulls back from the raucous guitar attack (there are three guitarists including Grohl, who also played drums) on much of the album, and provides a dramatic shift in gears, complete with a piano outro underneath Grohl’s voice.

Put simply, the title track is ferocious. Grohl pushes his vocal cords to the limit, loudly and emphatically declaring “Arm in arm, we are forever”, after confirming in January the band “know that we’re going to be a different band going forward” without Hawkins.

Josh Freese was introduced as their new drummer with a live-streamed event on May 22, when Nothing At All was among new songs played live for the first time. It’s a further sonic reaffirmation of Grohl’s determination to keep his musical family together and united, despite tragedy.

Show Me How features his daughter, Violet, sharing vocals on a song about acceptance and moving forward after an emotional storm, while The Teacher slips into Queen ‘mock opera’ territory, clocking in at 10 minutes.

Grohl’s epic paean to his mother is about life lessons learned, gratitude and making the most of your precious time on earth. “Try and make good with the air that’s left, counting every minute, living breath by breath,” he sings on The Teacher, as a thundering wall of sound builds up around him, softens towards the end and finishes in a sudden barrage of distortion.

Overall, it’s a 48-minute rollercoaster, ending with Rest. Halfway through this final stage of the album, the band flick the switch from sparse and soothing to Grohl’s trademark, guitar-laden rock. It’s a tried and true method he’s called upon at the most difficult time in his life.

– Martin Boulton

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