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‘William Barber’ is a collaborative album orchestrated by Lincolnshire based Spheruleus aka Harry Towell, who plays a unique blend of melancholic, rustic folk by using electronic processing on acoustic instruments. Towell is joined by Pennine inspired Hibernate co conspirators Isnaj Dui, Antonymes, Fraser McGowan (Caught in the Wake Forever) and Christoph Berg (Field Rotation) and Hibernate boss Jonathan Lees.
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- William Barber by Spheruleus and Friends
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Spheruleus won my heart earlier this year with ‘Peripheres’, a record of ambient myths for the wonderful Eilean Records. In keeping with the label’s mission -- to create a hundred records that make up the landscape of an imaginary island -- Harry Towell’s record offered curiously named tunes with the flavour of IDM, chopped into something decidedly alien. There were beats, but not invigorating ones -- rather, they tripped and stumbled, like ripples in the drone. The record stood as an example of Towell’s ability to make becalmed but chillingly folkloric music, and ‘William Barber’ is one in the same.
Recorded collaboratively with Hibernate mainstays and bossmen, ‘William Barber’ takes an ancient field recording of a school headmaster and crafts a narratively-driven drone record around it. Towell’s group have tried to immerse themselves in a dreamlike version of 1906, taking modern recordings of the school Barber worked at and transfusing them with a creaked atmosphere -- the electronic ambient processing feels cracked into, broken down by people fiddling with instruments and chattering into the ether. This makes for a record that’s both engrossing and fractured -- like the past, and like the life it’s trying to tell the story of, it’s intangible. It’s like Towell is trying to make recent life sound like distant history.
Many of Towell’s records for Hibernate have been hands-off affairs where the drone has journeyed steadfast towards its end, but on ‘William Barber’ his group collate field recordings and ambience actively, shifting between them and continuously modulating the sounds being heard. Towell uses tape grain as a sort of percussion, and introduces acoustic picking as a gesture of human life. Certain tracks are lent what sound like operatic vocals via field recordings, though with this much droning fog separating listener from sound, it could just be a very impressive synth arrangement. This record is all a blur, but one that seems to make today sound as ancient as last century.
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