Natasha Barrett

… I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vendor and take the plunge. Avant Music News

Eine absolute Empfehlung. Skug, Austria

A former student of Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley — two important figures of the British electroacoustics school — Natasha Barrett integrates the approach of these two composers into a proposition which recalls both sound ecology and properly abstract composition. Isostasie is full of these poetic, disconcerting environments, impressionistic pictures of various formats, evocative of her country of adoption, Norway. In this CD, one will encounter various meteorological happenings, the midnight sun, Red Snow (a phenomenon due to the growth of algae or diatoms), as well as an ode to the forest, Viva la Selva!. Plenty of illustrations and impressions of the Norwegian landscape, postfaced with an «exploration of spatial musical structure» (The Utility of Space), all fabricated with utmost delicacy by a young composer with an attuned ear, of whom this is the third album already (following two self-produced CDs, Rocks & Wraiths and Chillies & Shells.) [dt]

  • Norsk Komponistforening

CD (IMED 0262)

  • Label: empreintes DIGITALes
  • IMED 0262
  • 2002
  • UCC 771028026227
  • Total duration: 76:41
  • OGpak
  • 125 mm × 125 mm × 10 mm
  • 50 g

On the web

Download (IMED 0262_NUM)

Some recommended items
In the press

AMN Review

Mike Eisenberg, Avant Music News, February 15, 2021

Natasha Barrett paints with sound… but the color of her canvas is black.

After not hearing this wonderful release for several years, I recently went back and revisited much of her catalog (through headphones) and was amazed at the, lets call it 3-D’ness of this release, as well as the other empreintes DIGITALes release Bouteilles de Klein from 2010. The sense of multi-dimensionality in these recordings (and others not on this label) is at first curious, as in “wow, this is unusual” but then quickly graduates to utter fascination and childlike marvel at the sound tableau that is laid out in front, above, below and behind you.

I mean, this stuff is totally surreal! What’s interesting to me is, as much as Ms. Barrett seems to live and breathe technology, her sound sources are primarily natural and elemental. Reading some of the notes on her website/blog she’s not afraid to go out into the world to capture the environment as field recordings. Some of these excursions sound downright risky. The longest piece on this record, Viva la Selva! takes us on an 18-minute sonic trip through a Central American rain forest. Incorporeal / intangible sounds seem to approach the listener from all directions. Human sounds are sometimes substituted for animal sounds, and the distinction is often blurred. The rain forest at night sounds at once inviting, and at the same time menacing. The spatiality of it all is astounding.

Speaking of spatiality, this is a quality that turns up in most of her music. I opened this write-up by saying she paints on a black surface. I say this because the sensory perceptions that this listener gets while experiencing her music seems to come from some dark landscape and not from any particular direction in space. In the piece The Utility of Space, human voice and other indeterminate sounds appear to be materializing from a pitch-black velvet source, only to be momentarily illuminated to allow the brain to register that they are even there. My favorite piece on the album Red Snow has so many sonic easter eggs that delight the listener upon discovery it’s almost overkill. Between all the micro sounds that are spinning around the 3-dimensional sound stage and the more organic earthly sounds like footsteps in crunchy snow… the mind just struggles to keep up with it all.

The shorter pieces on this album are no less appealing. The opening 3 works form a trilogy entitled Three Fictions and each presents the listener to a different micro-climate or meteorological event. Upon these backdrops, the composer added a whispered female voice that imbues a phantasmagorical / mystical quality to the piece. The whispered voice takes shape out of nowhere with nothing concrete holding it in place… a whisp of nothingness that somehow forms itself upon the listener’s psyche, if only for a few seconds before disintegrating into something less than its molecular structure… forever.

This is music that does not reveal itself completely on the first, or for that matter the tenth listening. Instead, each visit back to these works is like listening to it fresh. New sounds that you swear you’ve never heard before appear out of nowhere. One can only relax and let it wash over you. If you are a fan of ambisonic or binaural recordings, recommending Natasha Barrett will be an easy sell. If you are a more seasoned Acousmatic listener but have never heard her, I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vendor and take the plunge. Careful headphone listening is strongly recommended. The composer makes ample use of deep, subsonic frequencies. Personally, from a guy who likes to listen to Acousmatic music at fairly high volumes, Barrett’s music doesn’t require this at all. In fact, as a word of caution, these deep (not bassy, but DEEP) sounds can really do a number on headphones or earbuds. Lower volume is in order here, and it in no way takes away from the enjoyment of the experience. Without headphones, a subwoofer will work wonders. Isostasie is a fantastic point of departure! I plan on doing a future write up of Bouteilles de Klein soon.

… I would suggest running (not walking) to your favorite vendor and take the plunge.

An Itinerary Through Northern Europe

François Couture, electrocd.com, February 9, 2004

This is a casual listening path, an invitation to travel — not a guided tour per se, more of an itinerary, akin to Romantic-era travel literature. So this will be a listening itinerary, an invitation to discover a highly subjective selection of electroacoustic composers from a specific corner of the world. Our destination: Northern Europe.

France reigns over European electroacoustic music like a despotic queen. The persisting influence of Pierre Schaeffer’s work — even more than 50 years after the invention of what he has called “musique concrète” — and the gravitational pull of the Ina-GRM tend to hide from the rest of the world the work being accomplished elsewhere in Europe.

So let’s start our journey in one of France’s neighbors, Belgium. The country owes much of its electroacoustic activity to Annette Vande Gorne, the indefatigable animator of the Musiques & Recherches center. Her music displays a strong sense of serenity, something rare in the field of tape music. Tao, a cycle about the five base elements (air, earth, metal, fire and water), remains a classic. In it she explores every possible transformation of the sounds associated to these elements with an uncommon level of artistry and poetry. A student of Vande Gorne, Stephan Dunkelman has picked up on her grace, a grace he transmutes into movement. Often the result of a collaboration with choreographers, his works are driven by an inner force that substitutes the sensuality of movement to Vande Gorne’s philosophical — almost mystical — depth. His pieces Rituellipses and Thru, Above and Between, released on the album Rhizomes, deserve your attention.

A jump across the Northern Sea and we set foot on English ground. Birmingham has become an important creative node in electroacoustic music, thanks to the work of composer Jonty Harrsison and his Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (better known as BEAST), a laboratory for experimentation and sound diffusion that has helped many talented composers in developing their art. Harrison’s music is an essential listen. His piece Klang (released on Évidence matérielle) ranks among the best-known electroacoustic works of the last 25 years. His precise sound constructions and his distinctive way of compressing sound matter into streams of energy put him up there with Pierre Henry, Francis Dhomont and Bernard Bernard Parmegiani. One can follow the traces of his techniques into the works of Adrian Moore, one of his students, especially in the latter’s fondness for putting simple sound sources (marker on a white board, tin foil) through complex transformations. Sieve, from the album Traces, uses a catchy playfulness to make this transformative process transparent.

Denis Smalley was born and raised in New Zealand, but he has been living in the UK since the mid-‘70s. His contributions to the acousmatic corpus and to the development of sound diffusion make him not only the contemporary but in a sense the acolyte of Harrison. Furthermore, the two composers share a similar interest in form and in the choreographed displacement of abstract sound objects through space and time. Wind Chimes (on Impacts intérieurs) and Base Metals (on Sources/Scènes) are good illustrations of the slightly cold yet fascinating beauty of his music. John Young, one of his students — and another New-Zealander who studied and now teaches in England), follows a similar approach, although he replaces Smalley’s elemental sound sources with more emotionally charged images. The works featured on his CD La limite du bruit offer to the listener several occasions to dive into his or her own memories, the sound of a squeaky swing or a creaky door turning into avatars of Proust’s madeleine. Time, Motion and Memory is a choice cut.

Scandinavian electroacoustic music is still too largely ignored on our side of the Atlantic, but empreintes DIGITALes’ catalog allows us to make a short stop to round up our peregrinations. Natasha Barrett has studied with Harrison and Smalley and has been involved in BEAST, but since 1998 she has elected Norway as her base camp. There, she has stepped away from the style of her teachers and has sought inspiration in the Nordic cold. Her Three Fictions, released on Isostasie, deserve many listens. And let me bring this listening path to an end with one of the key composers in electroacoustic music today, the Swedish Åke Parmerud, whose Renaissance (on Jeu d’ombres) pays tribute to the analog synthesizer without resorting to nostalgic tricks.


Oliver Rehák, 3/4, November 1, 2003


Tobias Bolt, Skug, no. 54, June 14, 2003

Der, zumeist im geologischen Zusammenhang verwendete, und einen Gleichgewichtszustand beschreibende Begriff der»Isostasie«ist der Titel von Natasha Barrets drittem Album, auf dem die Komponistin und Sound-Ökologin verschiedene lokale Naturphänomene, wie die Mitternachtssonne oder »Roten Schnee« mittels elektroakustischer Klangforschungen abstrakt umreißt. Die zehn glasklaren, kalten Impressionen aus ihrer Wahlheimat Norwegen, durchwegs spannend und mit einer ausgeprägten Liebe zum Detail gestaltet, fegen wie ein eisiger Nordwind aus den Boxen und kristallisieren zu glitzernden Klangskulpuren voll gespenstischer Schönheit.

Noch ein wenig abstrakter kommt das Album des belgischen Komponisten Stephan Dunkelman daher. Seine nicht nur für Konzerte, sondern auch für Ausstellungen und Tanzaufführungen komponierten Stücke spielen gekonnt mit Musik im Raum/Zeit-Kontext, sowie laut/leise-Kontrasten. Die zu Beginn etwas diffus anmutenden Soundscapes geraten mit zunehmender Spieldauer zu einem durchaus hörenswerten Ganzen, in dem sich die verschiedenen Geräusche tatsächlich wie»Rhizome«(dieser ursprünglich aus der Botanik stammende Begriff wurde von Deleuze und Guattari als Metapher für Hypertextualität verwendet) von den Spitzen weg in verschiedenste Richtungen fortpflanzen.

Der Titel von Arturo Parras Album wiederum weist ganz konkret auf seine Entstehungsweise hin: fünf »acousmatische« Stücke für Tape, von Parra an ebenso viele verschiedene Komponisten in Auftrag gegeben, werden auf»Parr(A)cousmatique«von dem kolumbianischen Gitarristen mit seinem expressiven Spiel auf der akustischen Gitarre konterkariert. Ein atmosphärisch unglaublich dicht geratenes Album, in dem sich ruhige, einfühlsame Passagen mit explosiven Fingerpickings und stakkatoartigen Rhythmusattacken abwechseln. Das in Parras Spiel omnipräsente lebensfreudige Flamencofeeling paart sich hier auf ganz wunderbare, ungewöhnliche Weise mit der Musique Concrète der Tape-Kompositionen. Eine absolute Empfehlung. Alle drei Veröffentlichungen beinhalten in den äußerst ansprechend gestalteten Pappkarton-Schubern umfangreiches Informationsmaterial, darunter Biographien, Details zum Release sowie Kommentare der Künstler zu den einzelnen Stücken in englischer und französischer Sprache.

Eine absolute Empfehlung.


Alan Freeman, Audion, no. 48, June 1, 2003

This one sounds like a mixture of digital “granular” synthesis and all sorts of concrete manipulation. It’s a mass of sonic swarms and textures that scatter and dive around, sometimes in big churning fabrics (kinda Stockhausen like) and sometimes in sensory collages (Redolfi and Zanési realms). The resultant album is one that tends to zoom through its 77 minutes without getting too engrossing, thus I’m unable to say much more!

… a mass of sonic swarms and textures that scatter and dive around…

Sounds Around: Field Recordings in Electroacoustics

David Turgeon, electrocd.com, June 1, 2003

Field recordings have always fascinated electroacoustic composers, ever since Pierre Schaeffer’s Cinq études de bruits (1948), featuring processed train sounds. With R Murray Schafer’s Vancouver Soundscape 1973 (1972-73), these everyday sounds are articulated around a discourse which will be termed “sound ecology,” whereby sounds keep their original meaning, and no longer serve as anecdotic content to be used and abused at the composer’s whim. Jonty Harrison synthesises these two approaches in his short text {cnotice:imed_0052-0001/About Évidence matérielle/cnotice}.

Actually, every composer seems to have their own unique approach towards field recordings. If sound ecology has seen the burgeoning of microphone artists such as Claude Schryer and of course Hildegard Westerkamp and her famous {cpiste:imed_9631-1.3/Kits Beach Soundwalk/cpiste} (1989), sound travels such as French duo Kristoff K Roll’s CD Corazón Road (1993) are, in this respect, closer to the art of documentary film. Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based composer Jon Hudak starts off with an extremely minimalist palette so as to seek out the “essence” of sounds, which, to the listener, translate into soft, dreamy soundscapes. A student of the aforementioned Jonty Harrison, Natasha Barrett conceives beautiful landscapes of sounds with very discreet field recordings, that retain an aesthetic likeness to the acousmatic tradition.

Many young composers settle into this landscape (of sound…) and their work is of such interest to us, it would be a shame not to let them be heard. We shall first mention the California-based V. V. (real name Ven Voisey), who organises his found sounds into an architecture reminescent of “old school” musique concrète—doing so, he uncovers a previously unheard aesthetic affinity between Schaeffer and Merzbow… With Relisten, Austrian composer Bernhard Gal guides us through his carefully selected episodes of “found musics” (that is, musical structures that preexist within the environment.) Finally, because of its numerous ideas and its incredible pacing, the surprising flume ridge.halifax.lisbon (2001) from Montréal composer Cal Crawford will undoubtedly seduce listeners looking for unheard acousmatic grounds.

Two small treats to end with. First, the pretty Aenviron: one mini-CDR is a simple thread of five pure field recordings (with no processing!). After all, if there is such a thing as cinema for the ear, why shouldn’t there be a photo album for the ear! And to close the loop, may we also suggest to make a stop at Lionel Marchetti’s recent mini-CD with the evocative title, Train de nuit (Noord 3-683) (1998-99). This work for one loudspeaker, dedicated (couldn’t you guess?) to Pierre Schaeffer, remind us again of the ever renewed importance of environmental sources in feeding the electroacoustic ocean.

Off the Spine

Dwight Loop, e/i magazine, no. 1, March 31, 2003

Learning from a master, Jonty Harrison (University of Birmingham, UK), Barrett’s developed a distinctive voice on Isostasie. While at Birmingham, she was greatly influenced worked under the auspices of BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre). Collaborating with those visual/theatrical artists further led to a doctoral degree in composition; now residing in Oslo and active in NICEM (Norwegian International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music), Barrett’s music on her hrst release for empreintes DIGITALes is a deep reflection of her intense interest in tape-splicing experiments. An integral element of tape composition, pre- and post-computer era, has been the use of mathematical equations in determining sound characteristics and, on Three Fictions (Northern Mix), Barrett utilizes loose algorithmic structures refracting sight, sound, and sensation. Section one is based on a statistical simulation of rain falling onto a two-dimensional surface; in the third section, locations of events are calculated by using a numerical system, in this instance, sound materials placed by hand, which have a lighter and more deliberate character. The result of this statistical realization? Randomness, in some ‘harmonious’ fashion, alluding to the idea the sounds were intentionally composed. Such a Cage-ean approach serves her well; however, an even better result is achieved when Barrett lets her senses take over, as in the remarkable Red Snow, composed after her relocation to Norway and a definitive representation of an awareness of the surrounding environment: swirling snowflakes at the mercy of wind, labyrinthine ice crystal patterns, stark moonlit landscapes. Imaginative, evocative music abounds as well on Viva la Selva!, inspired by the antithesis to Norway’s icy landscape: the forests and jungles of the world. Here, location recordings are transformed into abstract (mis)representations of the insect, bird, and animal kingdoms, electronic manipulations evoking the beauty of the natural world around us.

Imaginative, evocative music…


Pierre Durr, Revue & Corrigée, no. 55, March 1, 2003

Natasha Barrett est une jeune acousmaticienne britannique installée à Oslo, Arturo Parra est, lui, un Colombien résidant au Québec. Les associer dans cette chronique relève ici d’une forte subjectivité, leurs univers sonores respectifs étant totalement différents, au-delà bien sûr de certaines techniques communes à toutes les musiques électroacoustiques.

La première pratique une forme de juxtaposition de couches sonores en interaction mutuelle, les unes provenant de l’environnement direct (donc naturelles et parfois reconnaissables), les autres étant transformées. Arturo Parra superpose le travail d’un instrument acoustique, la guitare (un jeu profondément volubile et chaleureux qui caractérise le style latino-américain) et les bandes magnétiques. Tour à tour Gilles Gobeil, Robert Normandeau, Stéphane Roy, Francis Dhomont, piliers d’empreintes DIGITALes, l’assistent.

L’association des deux créateurs peut se justifier par une partie de la thématique de certaines œuvres. Natasha Barrett s’attache à décrire des paysages naturels, avec sa sensibilité. Red Snow évoque les tourbillons de neige de sa patrie d’adoption. D’autres pièces font référence à cet environnement (Outside Snow Falls, Midnight Sun: Midday Moon… ); elle pratique en somme une météorologie sonore (Replaced). Son intérêt pour les paysages naturalistes se retrouve aussi dans Viva la Silva, évocation de la forêt vierge de Costa Rica a travers les grouillements, piaillements, de la faune (les oiseaux surtout) mais aussi les transformations de la voix humaine.

Avec Arturo Parra, on retrouve un peu de cette thématique paysagère. Mais la sienne est plus axée sur des paysages dans lesquels il ressent une présence - voire une absence - humaine. La forêt vierge semble encore garder les traces des peuples anciens (La basilique fantôme), abriter un voyageur/aventurier (D’or et de lumière) ou être tout simplement la cadre d’une impression de solitude humaine (Soledad). Le résultat sonore chez lui est très emphatique, volontaire, dynamique, tandis que sa consœur réalise un travail d’une approche plus introspective.

Le résultat sonore chez lui est très emphatique, volontaire, dynamique, tandis que sa consœur réalise un travail d’une approche plus introspective.


Fabrice Allard, EtherREAL, February 14, 2003

Natasha Barrett, d’origine anglaise, s’est exilée en Norvège et se laisse influencer par ce nouvel environnement pour composer ses pièces électroacoustiques mêlant sons concrets et d’autres générés de manière informatique à partir de modèles mathématiques. Composés entre 1998 et 2001, ces dix morceaux sont parfois des œuvres de commande, des bandes sons d’installations, pour la plupart présentés dans des festivals de musique électroacoustique, allant jusqu’à remporter quelques prix prestigieux.

Le disque est composé de deux triptyque, et quatre autres morceaux de longue durée.

Three Fictions (Northern Mix) est composé de trois images, trois scènes mises en musique. Le travail de Natasha Barrett consiste globalement à recréer des ambiances, des sonorités connues, par synthèse sonore, non seulement en créant le son mais aussi en le répartissant dans le temps et l’espace. Ainsi sur la première partie de ce triptyque, intitulée In the Rain, un algorithme simule la pluie qui tombe sur une plaque métallique. Ce travail est ensuite habillé par quelques sons concrets comme un clocher, des oiseaux, des sons évoquant le calme après la tempête sur Midnight Sun: Midday Moon.

Le second triptyque, Displaced:Replaced, composé de très courts morceaux se consacre à un élément précis déjà mis en évidence par le titre: Fog, Light Wind, Wet and Gusty et Gathering Wind semblent ainsi récréer, tel des images de synthèse (sonore), des environnements au réalisme parfois troublant. Ainsi l’auditeur se retrouve au bord d’une marre encore recouverte de brume au petit matin avec le croassement des grenouilles, se promène le long d’une rivière dont le courant augmente doucement, ou se retrouve en terrain découvert, balayé par le vent, happé par une bourrasque, tandis que les feuillages s’agitent et des objets flottent sur le sol.

Des quatre autres titres, on retiendra Viva la Selva! qui en un peu plus de 17 minutes simule une plongée de 24h en pleine forêt. Tout y est reconstitué, avec d’abord au petit matin quelques insectes et chants d’oiseaux, mais aussi des sonorités inquiétantes rappelant des loups grognant. Dans la chaleur de l’après-midi l’ambiance est plus calme, mais perturbée par le vol d’un moustique ou d’oiseaux venant voir qui ose s’aventurer dans cette forêt mystérieuse où vous vous ferez surprendre par le craquement d’une branche sous vos pas. La nuit d’étranges animaux sortent de leur abris et viennent nous inquiéter, toute une faune qui nous était jusque là inconnue nous offre ce concert avant de retrouver sa tanière avant le levé du soleil. Le calme retrouvé les bruits connus reprennent le dessus, une légère pluie fait son apparition, une nouvelle journée peut commencer.

Du cinéma pour les oreilles, et une écoute conseillée au casque pour profiter pleinement de la distribution des sons.

Derrière son aspect technique un peu ardu, Natasha Barrett construit une musique assez facile à appréhender car elle tente de recréer des éléments connus. Sa musique froide, inquiétante provoquera peut-être même quelques sursauts. Il est déconseillé de partir seul en forêt…


Klaus Hübner, Westzeit, February 1, 2003

Frisches Wasser direkt von der Quelle, sauber, klar, natürlich. Den Klang dazu reproduzierte Natasha Barrett original und perfekt auf einem neuen Tonträger. Die ehemalige Studentin der britischen Elektroakustiklehrer Jonty Harrison und Denis Smalley verarbeitet in ihrem dritten Album norwegische Impressionen. Alles akustische Eindrücke aus der Natur, die ganz konkrete Erscheinungen benutzen. Selbst wenn das erste Stück “Three Fictions” heißt: Bezüge zu realen Klängen dringen immer wieder durch - Regen, Wind, Schneefall. Ihr Arbeit für NoTAM (Norsk nettverk for Teknologi, Akustikk og Musikk) in Norwegen ermöglichten exemplarische Klanginstallationen für das elektronische Medium.

Den Klang dazu reproduzierte Natasha Barrett original und perfekt auf einem neuen Tonträger.


Ios Smolders, Vital, no. 357, January 30, 2003

It has been some time that I listened to a new release of electroacoustic music, so imagine I was anxious to hear some new ones that I found on my doormat. empreintes DIGITALes releases the music of mostly classically trained electroacoustic composers. The music is well-produced, sounds perfect. The music is also well-documented and the sleeves are artful as well as tasteful. Very well balanced releases. Let’s get on to the first release, Natasha Barrett’s Isostasie. Of the three cd’s reviewed here this cd breathes the most human atmosphere. Unlike a lot of acousmatic compositions there is room for rest here. Many acousmatic composers tend to create dense layers of complex sounds that whirl around each other like inside a maelstrom. Barrett allows for calmth to get a place in the composition and we even hear a human voice. Sometimes she too uses the cliché of filtered basses to counteract with high pitched fluttering and her structures are not very original. Yet, in the best compositions (like Three Fictions (Northern Mix), Industrial Revelations) a very personal style appears and I’d really like to hear more of that. In other compositions (like in Viva la Selva!) the mimicry of the real world is too obvious, though. I would advise against that. (as if my opinion matters…)

… this cd breathes the most human atmosphere.


Brett McCallon, Splendid E-Zine, January 20, 2003

Natasha Barrett is an electroacoustic composer — she creates soundscapes out of carefully manipulated everyday sonic tones, as well as tape loops, samples, synthesized drones and so forth. The stuff that results could be described as semi-minimalist: while there is very little clutter to these pieces, the sound is at least somewhat layered, producing immediate and raw textures beneath a placid, detached surface.

I found that this music was ideally suited to walks around the quieter portions of New York on clear winter nights. Barrett’s muse is a snow-swept one, or at least it seems so to me, and the whispered half-words and semi-phrases with which she peppers her compositions recreate the impressions of conversations overheard on the street through cold and deadened air. Her sometimes vanishing tones rarely build to a crescendo; rather, when the volume increases, it does so suddenly, with the force of an onrushing train. As all of these impressions wash over the listener, he is left with a strange wistfulness — a desire to be in the place from which so many lovely things can be glimpsed.

This is an engaging and stimulating piece, full of contrasts and silences. Given the proper context, it is powerful indeed.

… an engaging and stimulating piece, full of contrasts and silences.


Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, January 17, 2003

Natasha Barrett, 1972 in England geboren, studierte Elektroakustik bei Jonty Harrison und Denis Smalley und lebt und arbeitet heute in Oslo. Norwegen ist keineswegs die elektroakustische Diaspora wie zu Zeiten Arne Nordheims, dessen Pionierwerke 1967 - 72 noch in Warschau entstanden sind. Barrett steht heute das Osloer NoTAM-Studio zur Verfügung und mit dem Ultima in Oslo, dem Ilios in Harstad und dem Music Factory in Bergen sogar drei Festivals, um ihre mit diversen Preisen gewürdigten Soundscapes zu präsentieren. Auf Isostasie (IMED 0262) erklingen sechs Kompositionen der Jahre 1998 bis 2001: Three Fictions (Northern Mix), Displaced:Replaced, Red Snow, Viva la Selva!, The Utility of Space und Industrial Revelations. Barretts algorithmische Haikus kreisen ausnahmslos um Naturerscheinungen - Wald, Regen, Wind, Nebel, Schnee, die Mitternachtssonne. Oft sind es meteorologische oder räumliche Phänomene, die eigentlich nur im synästhetischen Sinne ‘hörbar’ sind. Allerdings scheinen Barrett nicht so sehr die Naturklangbilder als solche zu fesseln, sondern ihre durch elektroakustische Verdichtung und Konkretisierung spürbar gemachten Effekte auf Psyche und Stimmung. Hören wird so zu einer Form des Nachspürens und Nachsinnens über das Eingetauchtsein in ein gewelltes, getöntes, temperiertes, belichtetes Environment.


Peter Marsh, BBC Music Reviews, January 11, 2003

Not so long ago, electronic music was the province of those lucky enough to be able to gain access into the squeaky clean labs of Ircam or similar institutions, where large, impossibly expensive boxes festooned with dials and flashing lights awaited the bidding of the composer. Now that a similar level of wizardry is achievable with just the aid of a laptop, and contemporary electronica made in bedrooms all over the world enjoys cutting edge status, it’s tempting to wonder what the point of ‘classical’ electronic music actually is…

A graduate of Jonty Harrison’s B.E.A.S.T. project, Natasha Barrett’s approach is highly rigorous, borne of compositional rather than improvisational process. Though on paper her methods can seem a bit dry, her music is posessed of an overtly sensual and often awesome power that rivals anything else you’re likely to hear. Her ‘acousmatic’ techniques transform field recordings, percussion and voices into restless soundscapes that conjure up strange geographies buffetted by even stranger meteorological phenomena, cosmic forces on a massive scale or hallucinatory rainforests straight out of JG Ballard.

Barrett’s structural precision gives her pieces a strong sense of narrative as well as place. Tiny sonic fictions unravel throughout; footsteps recede over glassy, gong like tones. A door is opened, a cat enters, draws near, purrs and eats from a bowl seemingly placed in your left ear. You’re dragged through dense undergrowth packed with insects, or sat in a dripping cave listening to distant machines devouring the landscape. But most of all it’s her control of timbre that catches the ear again and again.

At times during the opening Three Fictions (Northern Mix) the immersion factor almost sent me into some deep alpha state, or the abstract sweep of millions of tiny oscillations produced such strange sensations in the small of my back I had to take my headphones off to catch my breath.

Lush, disturbing and beautiful all at once, Isostasie at once connects with the rich and strange concoctions of classic musique concrète, yet has a timeless quality lacking in the ephemeral world of contemporary electronica. Stunning.

… a timeless quality lacking in the ephemeral world of contemporary electronica. Stunning.


Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, January 6, 2003

I heard rumors about Barrett as being one of the very best acousmatic composers around today; this highly engaging record shows me those rumors are true. Isostasie is one of the most natural sounding releases in this label’s history, its constitution based on light touches, warm feelings, escaping glimpses, faraway rememberings. Everything revolves around electroacoustic translations of simple settings and well defined concepts, such as watching the snow falling outside the window or the excitement and fear one can get while venturing into the very depth of a forest (the truly wonderful Viva la Selva!). Though she studied with Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley, Natasha has a distinct and strong personality of her own - I’d say the main influence in her music right now is the fact that she lives in Norway; her sound rises from introspective silence, then hovers around making us ecstatic, completing its cycle into the realm of that same silence where it was born.

… based on light touches, warm feelings, escaping glimpses, faraway rememberings.

Chroniques (Mission 43)

Solénoïde, December 31, 2002

Grâce au label québécois Empreintes Digitales, Solénoïde reprend le cap d’un monde électroacoustique complexe et parfois merveilleux dans lequel les enceintes font office d’instrument à part entière. Cet univers nous est dépeint cette fois-ci par une enseignante anglaise vivant en Norvège. À même pas 30 ans, cette jeune femme bardée de diplôme signe avec Isostasie son troisième album. Inutile de s’en cacher, sur ce disque Natasha Barrett construit des figures abstraites plutôt difficile d’accès. Pourtant, avec un peu d’attention et de concentration, quelques pépites soniques étincelantes sauront s’offrir à l’auditeur. Comme ébranlé par une énergie tellurique, ce dernier se perd dans les dédales bruitistes d’une œuvre au charme diffus. Certaines pièces possédant au passage un fort pourvoir d’évocation. Mais rien d’anormal à cela puisque Natasha compose en parallèle pour la danse et le théâtre. Qu’il s’agisse de paysages glaciaux ou post-industriels, de métaphores écologiques ou météorologiques, miss Barrett projette dans notre subconscient des images microclimatiques floues et troublantes. Adeptes de fictions sonores tout à la fois sombres et narratives, Isostasie vous est vivement recommandé.

Adeptes de fictions sonores tout à la fois sombres et narratives, Isostasie vous est vivement recommandé.


TD, Funprox, December 17, 2002

The empreintes DIGITALes label has over the years released lots of material by composers of so called “musique concrète” and “electroacoustic” music. For those unfamiliar with these genres, this sort of music originated almost half a century ago, when various “classical” composers started experimenting with the use and possibilities of studio-recording equipment for their compositions. Amongs these electronica pioneers were people like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Schaeffer. The result of this experimenting was that electronic equipment that was meant only for producing “classical” music became instruments themselves, and the artists could now produce music on the basis of samples and electronic equipment instead of using an entire orchestra. Thus a new genre was born. Later electronic music (like Kraftwerk) was made possible through these [r]evolutions.

Now, half a century later there are a lot of composers with “schooled” backgrounds that make their compositions with electronic equipment only. Over the years some famous composers, like Francis Dhomont and Denis Smalley, have had their works released on empreintes DIGITALes which has become a sort of archive for these compositions. Now a new generation of composers is releasing their work. Among these are Natasha Barrett (a former student of Denis Smalley) and Stephan Dunkelman.

The works of these composers are both very soundtrack-like in nature, highly processed sounds form almost natural flows, like an orchestra made out of samples slowly evolving towards its climax. Just like standard classical compositions these are very dense and highly emotional, ranging from very soft sounds, to huge walls of sound. These releases are quite similar in many respects, although Barrett’s work seems to be a bit more threatening and continuous, while Dunkelman’s seems to be more abstract and changing. For those more used to listening to ambient and electronica they can be very well compared to artists like Brume or Daniel Menche or perhaps even to a less abstract version of Illusion of Safety.


Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, October 25, 2002

Natasha Barrett (1972) has studied with some of my personal all-time favorites in the dominion of electroacoustics and sound art; Jonty Harrison and Denis Smalley. She has worked at BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre), which had a great impact on her aesthetics. A grant from The Research Council of Norway brought her across the North Sea to her current base in Oslo, Norway, where she teaches and composes.

She is fully at ease with works for instruments and live electronics, sound installations, dance, theatre and animation projects, but her heart and soul dwell in the acousmatic tape composition.

Track 1 – Three Fictions (Northern Mix) – is, as the title indicates, a revision of a work, revised in Barrett’s own studio. Each of the three sections glimpses a sight / sound / sensation. Each part also carries a short, haiku-like text.

A soft tuning in, fading in, to the fire of brush – or, as the poem suggests; the mind – pries open a meadow of elves’ bells and quirky birds of electricity, but deep murmurs of overgrown layers of clay reveal some geological unrest… until a myriad of grains fill the air to polish your face like a battalion of blast-lampas… Maybe the ringing of little bells disclose a silently treading group of goblins through the grass… but nothing is threatening…

Strong vibrations, frictional grindings, bubbling simmerings, shimmerings – a sudden laughter out of unreality, swallowed by silence like matter sucked into a black hole… rolling, shifting motions; deep murmurs onto which fragments of audio are sprayed… A woman’s vocal expressions rise softly, sparsely, like rare flowers in the forest, and a reminiscence of midday cloister bells of southern France glide by like a summer fragrance… Towards the conclusion the voice utters fully graspable sentences, evidently out of a poem, and the intensity of the rushing sounds increase.

A downward glissando, like a distant dive bomber at the end of WWII, and some inconspicuous closeness populated with screws and bolts of the age of industrial paraphernalia… caressed by solitary gamelan gongs along the curvature of the planet, the horizon shivering with bent light through the gravitational field, upheld by the virtual particles of quantum mechanics… and the World Cat meows and purrs, extremely closely miked behind interstellar clouds of Creation!

Natasha Barrett has inserted shorter interludes into the progression of works marching on like crouched shadows on a lithograph by Rune Lindblad through the sonic landscape on this CD. She calls these insertions Displaced:Replaced, and there are three of them: Fog, light wind - Wet and gustyGathering wind. As a further explanation she reveals that these brief works stem from a sound and visual installation that she set up with photographer Trym Ivar Bergsmo, who is also responsible for the CD cover and the photo of Natasha Barrett that I submitted with this review. The installation was designed to capture realtime meteorological circumstances and their effect on nature; hence the titles, which simply describe those circumstances.

Evidently, the move to Norway, but also an inherent affinity for, or intuitive understanding of, the interplay of human and natural forces, spirit and matter, has a decisive effect on the composer’s work. She has roots in the soil and the clay and the rock, and a soaring mind among the stars. She rides a slingshot through curved space!

Fog, Light Wind has a prickly notion hopping or sort of vibrating across the wet rocks of the shore, as an imagined sound of mist paints grayish colors across your ears… and I do believe I can sense Moomin Papa’s boat adrift between hidden islands in a combination of homeliness and bohemia – an impression you’d normally get in the October of the Finnish archipelago…

Red Snow is a spiritual, musical, account of Barrett’s impressions on moving to the land of Norway from Great Britain in boreal times. She says:

I moved to Norway in the winter. Leaving behind everything I knew, I felt increasingly aware of the environment: the variety of snow spiraling in the wind; intricate details of vegetation enhanced by crystal formations; the soft sun and bright landscape; footprints suggesting their own scenario… and the potential color lying dormant.

A moment – the sensual feeling of a moment – flashes by, then recedes… only to return with its catch of time residue, which then displays on the inside of your eyelids as the moment widens to encompass the holy NOW of FOREVER, the mighty HERE of all directions.

The spatiality of Red Snow is amazing, sweeping past and by, back and forth, hither and thither, up, down, front, back – and gathering a rare force of timbral colors; tempting, persuasive, instigating a let-go of every-day paraphernalia, to enter a shaman’s spiritual aloofness, as layer upon layer of existence are superimposed in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of sound dreams upon dark skies…

The beauty of this forceful music is grand; stretched bells, elongated through space-time, focuses the attention on minuscule motions-emotions, which in this spinning-top behavior are subject to intense study, their smallest properties taking on unknown, otherworldly appearances…

The music changes character, winds down into a slow breath of metallic specs riding murmuring infras in a thoughtful, spiraling circumspection, the open, saliva-running jaws of Bardo fantasies nearby – and concrete soundscapes open their little shutters onto peaceful still lives of crows and farmhands deep inside the music, and in the final shrill moments the work winds down into a winding bead of brilliant sonic pearls, rattling in shimmering reflections down the line.

In earphones this piece is a shattering, mind-blowing ride. Over heavy loudspeakers it moves your mind sky-high and your furniture around the room!

Wet and Gusty, the second brief meteorological sonic insertion, sounds like its title; like gusts of wind grabbing your coat or the makeshift sails of the raft of a childhood adventurer inside your forlorn memories – and there is a definite presence of some fluid that might well be water, in many sonic nuances; streaming, gushing – or just condensing on your window…

Viva la Selva! comes, says Barrett, in four continuous sections: Morning introduction (claiming territory), Midday heat (mad insects, mellow birds and lazy day dreams), Dancing at night (a frenzied bizarre), Dawn and rain (long live the forest!). This is the longest piece on the CD. It opens in a cicadish panning, in a subatomic jitter, elongated into a spacious bird expanse, meditative, pure… shining, rippling around its axes. Barrett fits well into the respected role as a true artisan of the audios in this extended work, which she displays in transparent visions, suspended like spider webs in the forest; that secretive, protecting forest into which you can run as civilization becomes too hostile for you; Natasha Barrett’s spidery, dewy sound webs sticking to your forehead amongst the spruce trees, the tiny kinglets squeaking up around the trunks, small balls of feathery life bopping inside the branchery. Almost human vocal sounds bring forth ideas of goblins and fleshy, meaty creatures rising like mushrooms out of the forest floor, raising their heads with those curious eyes above the fern…

Some sections are so deeply pastoral that they bring me into a forgotten orchard behind an old castle ruin on an island in Lake Båven in Sweden, which I came upon once when canoeing by myself across misty waters. Giant bumble bees, the size of sheep, murmur around you in this music, and the residue of evil intentions flutter around you in swarms of half-uttered morphemes… acrid, bitter…

The conclusion is even more mystic, like precipitation on the fern of a forest meadow, where the force fields of good spirits fondle the moment…

The third meteorological insertion is Gathering Wind. The initial sweeping, circling, spiraling gust is chilly, having you wrap your coat tighter around your anatomy, hat in face, bending towards the might that bears down on you… Like in the earlier cases, Barrett sketches these brief moments from out in the open with expertise and an uncanny feel for the character of each sound.

The Utility of Space is, says the composer, an exploration of spatial musical structure. This is also, like Viva la Selva! A rather long work, more than 13 minutes. It is, however, very different from that work, introducing itself in crumply, prickly, dry crackles and an absentminded, inward female voice, under the desolate drone of a distant airplane on high, far above the dark clouds, gleaming up there in the moonlight like a silvery fish across the reefs… The voice gets cut up and multiplied, sometimes lifting off the surface of the planet in clouds of sound dust… I get the impression of a chaotic, lonely mind, traveling the existence with big eyes and empty hands, timorous and bashful like an outcast fairy, like a bleak butterfly with wounded wings, dragging herself across these barren lands, searching for her death amongst the rocks and ravines of the pure arbitrariness of geology – and can anything be lonelier…

The sensation of a kind of Bardo walk increases along the duration of the piece, drifting over in a dreamscape, into the interior of a dream that blows through the inner expanses of a life not asked for but graciously given and humbly received…

Industrial Revelations is the concluding work on this precious CD of exemplary sound art; an art so subtle, so… compassionate and emphatic, towards all that has lived and will live, and towards the elusive NOW that is so infinitely short that it can only be described as the hypothetical interface of past and future, stretching and bending in the uncertainty of quantum mechanics… leaving us helpless… and the final words on this last piece, uttered by Natasha Barrett, go: “… the landscape will sing with machines…”. A bubbling, forceful but simmering mud flow sound overwhelms the listener, and inside the mighty, brown wall of sound sledge hammers and heavy machinery can be distinguished… as dirty brick walls rise out of the poisoned planet like sores of sorrow out of the mourner… and a flickering light of rare innocence, forlorn in this desolate place, is put out by dark sounds that well in from the karma of those that didn’t have the power to give up power…

She has roots in the soil and the clay and the rock, and a soaring mind among the stars. She rides a slingshot through curved space!