"Axiom" is a collection of David Barnes' solo instrumental compositions from 2010-2012. The most noticeable influences are early Pink Floyd and Brian Eno. Some of the psychedelic densely layered acoustic string parts are reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Pillow of Winds" or "The Narrow Way". The Brian Eno influence can be heard in the minimal but structurally essential piano parts, and the ambient synthesizers in some of the works. Axiom is an intense headphones listening experience. There is a great deal of subtlety in the way the sounds fade into one another. The music is about the crafting of enticing sound combinations and gradual shifts in energy and the visual experience it evokes. If you are searching for complex chord progressions and virtuosic melody lines, then this may not be the album for you. However if you count early Pink Floyd and ambient Brian Eno among your favorite music, then Axiom may be right up your alley. It represents some of Barnes' best instrumental work to date. The "Unsurpassed Outtakes" albums released earlier in 2012, are the "second best" material that did not make it onto Axiom.
Barnes plays most of the instrument parts, but is joined by Charles Cohen on Buchla analog synth on the track "Danz Kompaktor", James Brooks on electric guitar in "Danz Kompaktor" and "Agent 17" and Matt Samolis on flute in "Nocturne."
Here is a rundown of what the album includes:
1. Danz Kompaktor (6:45) - Fast-paced but with a strong psychedelic undercurrent. The driving pulse is a combination of the Buchla analog synthesizer together with looped samples of Hammer dulcimer, viola and percussion hits. The loop track is reminiscent of Tony Levin's Chapman Stick part in "Elephant Talk" (King Crimson - Discipline), but with a modern techno/experimental feel. The other instruments on this track include 6 violas played through wow pedals, many layers of floating electric guitar sounds, and a backwards guitar solo reminiscent of the one on"Tomorrow Never Knows" from The Beatles Revolver album.
2. Solitude (4:25) - Mellow, ambient. Slow and gradually progressing piano & vibraphone parts that remind one of "Music for Airports" by Brian Eno. These are combined with many layers of viola played with guitar pick and digital delay, in the style of some of David Gilmour's guitar work on The Wall. There are also several tracks of David Gilmour style slide guitar and some sampled rain.
3. Old Smithfield Atlantic (5:21) - Slick, cruising at a low altitude, psychedelic rock. Drums, a slow but insistent driving bass part, lead electric guitars and vintage keyboards. Easy to hear the early Pink Floyd influence on this one. But it makes use of more modern recording and digital editing technology to create something fresh, while still maintaining its psychedelic roots.
4. Bronze Age (5:11) - Early Pink Floyd influence but with very different instrumentation, giving it a fresh, unique sound. The main melodic instrument for much of the piece is a pair of autoharps (without the buttons). This is accompanied by a slow pulsing, drone-like piano part that eventually evolves into a simple quiet piano solo. But before it gets there, the piece goes through an intense fiery synthesizer interlude with weeping creaky door hinge samples. Then towards the end of the piece, the mandolins that had been playing a minor role, take over and provide a densely layered melodic final section. The structure of this piece is fairly complex for such a short work, but the result is compositionally satisfying, and at times soothing.
5. Redeem (4:18) - Ambient synthesizer piece. It feels very much like ocean waves washing over you. Relaxing. Repetitive but changing.
6. Nocturne (5:51) - A very unusual and interesting combination of instruments. The primary driving (but slow) pulse is provided by crisp, cheerful, bell-like Kalimba parts. They are joined percussively by viola struck with drumstick and a homemade xylophone-like instrument using tuned steel conduit piping (called a tubulon). The main melodic instruments in this piece are flutes performed by Matt Samolis. There are also several violas performing in ambient drone and eventually taking the lead at the end of the piece.
7. Agent 17 (6:15) - Laid back psychedelic acoustic piece with layers of mandolin, zither, acoustic guitar and viola. The dreamy floating electric guitar parts by James Brooks provide Melody/harmony and psychedelic edge. The overall effect is a bit reminiscent of the first half of "The Narrow Way" by Pink Floyd off the Ummagumma album.
8. Passage (1:36) - Short acoustic number with mandolins, acoustic guitar and viola. Some backwards strings. As the name implies, this piece was added as a transition between tracks 7 and 9.
9, Below (6:37) - Dark, heavy ambient synthesizer piece with lots of subtle changes and a gradual build in energy throughout the piece. Drone-like, but with some murky dissonance that fades in and out.
10. Angels (6:09) - Intense and visual. Many of the other pieces on this album can be equally enjoyed on speakers or headphones. "Angels" is very much a headphones piece. Viola parts through digital tremolo, lead electric guitars and a little bit of synth blending in with the violas.
All music composed, produced and engineered by David Barnes
Mastered by Jonathan Wyman, M-Works.