"Cactus Behavior", released in 2000, is basically a greatest hits compilation of David Barnes' avant-garde/ambient/psychedelic instrumental compositions from the early 1990s. Many of the pieces have obvious Pink Floyd influence, as well as a bit of Fripp/Eno. But the instrumentation tends to take these pieces in a new, fresh direction. With layers of hammer dulcimers, African xylophones, Balinese (gamelan) metalaphones and other percussion combined with the melodic instruments like Rhodes pianos, slide guitars and trumpet. The resulting pieces have a unique sound - percussion-driven, psychedelic, mesmerizing. Many of these pieces were originally commissioned scores for modern dance companies and theater troupes in Philadelphia where Barnes lived and composed in the early 90s. Here is a rundown of what is included on the album:
Boy Dog Dinosaur 2 - part of a score composed for a children's puppet theater production. The music has a childlike quality, without quite being children's music. African xylophones with digital delay, Rhodes piano, slide whistle, congas and other percussion.
Zeromusic parts 2,4,6 and 7 - these pieces were commissioned as part of a score for Zero Moving modern dance company in Philadelphia, 1990.
Part 2 has hammer dulcimer tracks, drums, Pink Floyd-like slide guitars, Rhodes piano, chimes and a toy that makes a sheep sound.
Part 4 has roto toms, copper casserole dishes, zither and two violin parts composed by David Barnes and performed by Mark Bradley.
Part 6 has acoustic guitars, drums and cymbals and two trumpet parts by Kevin Murphy.
Part 7 has lots of hammer dulcimer tracks (some of them are played like a koto, with string bending), combined with lots of drums and shakers and a recorder. The melody for this piece was borrowed from a Renaissance song (as requested by Zero Moving).
Zero Moving performed their dance piece with this score at many locations on tour, including Jacob's Pillow at Tanglewood.
Gender Experiment - Barnes plays three tracks of African xylophones and two tracks of drums. He is joined by Charles Cohen on Buchla analog synthesizer and Kevin Murphy on trumpet. These three musicians make up most of the core membership of the ensemble 'Bastard Finders' (Philadelphia, 1990-1995). Gender Experiment was originally released on the Bastard Finders album "Shing!" In 1994. Kevin Murphy also played with Barnes in the rock group Puncture Project (Philadelphia, 1989-1994).
Fripp Grip 2 - This composition is also a collaboration between Barnes, Cohen and Murphy. It is actually the middle section of a much longer work (Fripp Grip Schnipp Dip) that was released on a Barnes solo album in 1990 (So Much For Sparse). Barnes plays African xylophone and a set of aluminum chimes made from conduit piping. Cohen - Buchla analog synthesizer, Murphy on trumpet.
Fear of icicles 2 - This is the middle section of a longer work - "Fear of icicles" which was originally released on an album of the same name in 1993. This piece was also used by a modern dance company in Philadelphia for performances in 1994. The instrumentation includes 5 hammer dulcimers, 5 genders (Balinese Gamelan percussion) and PInk Floyd-like slide guitar.
Piano XVI - This improvisation for piano with echo loop was performed on a beautiful Steinway grand in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire next to a crackling fire, thanks to a fellowship that Barnes received from the MacDowell artist colony in 1993. The technique of gradually adding a few notes at a time to a looping composition is a little bit reminiscent to some of Robert Fripp's work, but in this case, on piano. Relaxing, ambient, candlelight music. There are several more of these piano improvisations. Stay tuned for a full album release of Barnes piano work.
Spoons - This piece is a collaboration between David Barnes and Steve Coxe (currently these two form the ensemble - Minus 103). David plays acoustic guitar with echo loop and a gamelan gender. Steve plays keyboards and circular saw blades. During the composing/editing, Barnes also added an environmental recording of children in a gift shop, and a royalty-free recording of an Egyptian call to prayer (thanks in part to a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust, through New American Radio).
All instrument parts on this album were performed by David Barnes, except where noted. All music composed, produced and engineered by David Barnes, recorded using 8 track reel to reel technology (no digital editing and no click track).