(Gare Du Nord)
Anton Barbeau, musical polymath and synthesist, has been somewhat prolific lately, with several projects in the pipeline and four albums released in the last two years. Whereas the expansive double album Manbird dealt with issues of identity and (dis)location, subsequent albums The Joys We Live For and Power Pop!, have been more homely, set partly in Ant's domestic routine and most recently as fruits of the pandemic, whilst Drones of the Prophet is an album of instrumental and drone music played on a Prophet 6.
Now relocated from Berlin to his wife's family farm in Sacramento, his latest album is Stranger, and stranger: self-described as a rummage in his brain, playing like a "cosmic kid in a candy store". For the uninitiated, Barbeau's sound is generally described as psychedelic pop, heavily Brit influenced, including shorter instrumentals and spoken word sections. A raft of guest performers appear here, via remote contributions from Europe and America, including Greg Curvey of Custard Flux and Adrian Shaw of Bevis Frond. These collaborations, and returning to live performance, are celebrated in the stately worship of key song Cellar Bar.
Having moved back to the US the title song sings of alienation, feeling like a "stranger in my own hometown". Ant Lion similarly has the singer lost in themselves, waiting for inspiration and aware that their fate depends on "their earned income". These songs are crystal bright synth led pieces, whereas Dollis Hill Butchers is murkier, with dirty guitar licks and abattoir-dark percussion. Stone of Fire has a similarly delightful scuzziness, and topographical references over the ocean to Cowley Road show Barbeau's links to the UK. Sugarcube City is a multi-faceted psychedelic hymn which showcases his ability to craft hook laden pop, and the middle eight in particular is beautifully arranged.
Death and Divorce and Favourite Items are brief interludes, sombre and whimsical respectively, along with experimental sounding interstitial Just Have to Wait There and Soggy Problems, while Quick to the Basement and ICU are witty, razor sharp and sonically varied rock songs.
Ending the album on a personal note, Farm Wife is a love song, to his spouse and the life they have, although self-doubting "What did you see, was there a sign pointing at me?" and adding that she would "like to shave the beard of me, given the chance and a knife". Similarly the closing ode Slight Chance thanks their partner and reflects on a relationship that was once secret but kept "leaking out in song".
This is a varied and entertaining set of songs, from a great songwriter and arranger already working on his next - double - album, Morgenmusik, for next year.
Find Anton Barbeau on Bandcamp, here⇒