Reviews – Barnacles – Air Skin Digger


Barnacles – Air Skin Digger (Alma de Nieto)


Ambivalent, enigmatic, always catchy, sometimes menacing, dissonant, lysergic, pulsating, depicting a state of stillness and progression with a hint of melancholia. Whatever the project he decides to be involved in, Matteo Uggeri can’t cease to surprise us by his capacity to renew his own sound worlds, incorporating new elements and challenging musical directions.

Matteo Uggeri is one exceptionally active and creative sound artist, working under various monikers, founder member of Sparkle in Grey musical collective and newly the originator of this project titled Barnacles. Air Skin Digger is a the second Barnacles studio album, the first offering has been reviewed on Igloo. Loyal to its sound signature, the project delivers here an intriguing, personal and creative musical dialogue between sustained organic textures, post-rocking drone ambient, processed cinematic interludes and breakbeat downtempo electronica. The album is developed as one long single piece divided in several sections. Once more the soundscapes are deeply singular and mirror Matteo Uggeri’s very peculiar ability to design experimental music as a syncretism, plurality, aggregation of styles. The result is ambivalent, enigmatic, always catchy, sometimes menacing, dissonant, lysergic, pulsating, depicting a state of stillness and progression with a hint of melancholia. Imagine an impossible musical cocktail between Stars of the Lid, Boards of Canada, Fennesz, Lech Jankowski and krautrockin’ guitar wizards Achim Reichel, Günter Schickert—with hints of groovy electronic exotica and you’ll have an approximate idea. Whatever the project he decides to be involved in, Matteo Uggeri can’t cease to surprise us by his capacity to renew his own sound worlds, incorporating new elements and challenging musical directions. Philippe Blanche – Igloo


Barnacles – Air Skin Digger (ADN, 2018) Emiliano Grigis, Sodapop

Torna Matteo Uggeri con la sua creatura Barnacles, che al secondo disco sulla lunga distanza cresce e mette a fuoco sempre piu’ la poetica e l’approccio musicale: fatta scorta in questi anni di campioni degli Sparkle In Grey ma non solo, come un novello Dj Shadow in salsa digitale, Uggeri ricompone suoni dando vita nuova a questi frammenti. Il paragone non e’ casuale perche’, proprio come succede con pezzi migliori di Dj Shadow, il tutto acquista una naturalezza incredibile e la differenza con un disco suonato “vero” e’ un qualcosa di impalpabile: nei quattro lunghi brani di Air Skin Digger non affiorano tecnicismi ma atmosfere e progressioni ritmiche molto interessanti. E’ proprio l’uso delle percussioni la chiave di volta che rende ancora piu’ interessanti i pezzi: elemento dichiarato gia’ a tavolino da Uggeri (che dà l’idea di essersi dato un buon numero di regole compositive da seguire) i campioni di batterie non suonano per nulla come “incollati” o farlocchi e ben si sposano con le atmosfere create con chitarre, viola, cornamuse, trombe… musicalmente non siamo distanti da un ibrido di post rock ed elettronica ambientale molto melodico che suona vivo e accattivante. Completa il disco una bella grafica sempre tra il rosso e il nero con inquietanti illustrazioni cinquecentesche tratte da un libro sul cannibalismo, per un digipak davvero elegante.

Beach Sloth

Barnacles embarks on an intense trip on the propulsive energy of “Air Skin Digger”. The clear-eyed focus of the album makes it akin to receiving a caffeine buzz for at no point does Barnacles let up. Usage of samples, thoughtful creative riffing, wild unhinged rhythms, all of these come together in a way that feels highly unique. A gritty sensibility comes to bring all of it together for at times Barnacles has a potency to it that allows these pieces to truly shine.Strangely alluring, the rhythms truly rest in the very heart of the entire sound for at no point does Barnacles ever let up. While the nod to krautrock feels obvious, less obvious are the moments that reference soundtrack work, otherworldly ceremonies, industrial, noise, free jazz, even a little bit of drone entering into the equation. Neatly merging all of this together Barnacles creates their own unique aural universe.

“How a slave, who had perpetually defamed me and desired to have me killed, was himself killed and eaten in my presence” opens up the album in a way that belies the oddity of its title. At first feeling akin to the album sort of ‘warming up’ gradually the whole of it comes alive, very alive, with percussion that pounces on everything in its path. A sunburned sort of spirit adds to the incredible heat of the colossal “Of the manner in which the savages ate a prisoner and carried me to the feast”. Presenting a duality of sorts the multifaceted “how the savages ate the second roasted Christian, called Hieronymus”. Easily the highlight of the album comes with the chaotic close of “My prayer to the Lord God when I was in the hands of the savages who threatened to eat me” which isoddly catchy in a way that becomes impossible to accurately categorize, as if purely timeless.

Powerful and coming together as a singular, unified whole Barnacles delivers a spellbinding sort of whirlwind with the hypnotic “Air Skin Digger”.

Steve Mecca, Chain D.L.K.

Hot on the heels of the review of Barnacles collaboration with Maurizio Bianchi we have Barnacles (Matteo Uggeri) latest work – ‘Air Skin Digger,’ an album of 4 long compositions made using only 4 sound sources per each, all cannibalized from other works done in his more than 20 year musical career by Uggeri or with his band Sparkle in Grey, or with other collaborators. No digital sounds have been used in the recording, but only instruments such as viola, bagpipes, trumpet, guitars, gamelan, and unknown devices. The four tracks all have lengthy, but ultimately highly descriptive titles. 1. How a slave who perpetually defamed me and desired to have me killed, was himself eaten and killed in my presence. 2. Of the manner in which the savages ate a prisoner and carried me to the feast. 3. How the savages ate the second roasted Christian called Hieronymus. 4. My prayer to the lord God when I was in the hands of the savages who threatened to eat me. The artwork by Uggeri himself is an interpretation of the woodcuts taken from “True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World, America)”by Hans Staden (c. 1525 – c. 1576), which compliments those track titles.

Although there is a certain ritualistic ambience in the music (mainly due to the rhythm/percussion), it certainly seems to be an abstract interpretation in total. Track 1 has a rather somber mood, at least until the drumming enters the picture a little over 3 minutes into the piece. It’s jazz inspired and polyrhythmic in stark contrast to to the droning ambience. Track 2 begins with repetitive looped guitar riffs later giving way to some indistinguishable samples (field recordings?) while a steady beat emerges, The looped guitar samples are manipulated over time in such a way as to be in sync with the rhythm where before they were just disjunct elements. Barnacles gets a real groove going, then stops all dead but the beat, and morphs it into something almost completely different. Remember from earlier – there are only 4 sound sources employed here. While you may be getting the impression that this music is improvised, it is actually highly structured. Track 3 sounds like the most ritualistic of the lot, perhaps in part due to the exotic flute sounds and bellish tones. There is a calm before the storm here with various sonics in play, but the tension is palpable as the rhythm begins to build in its tribal fury. It’s more of a seething sort of tribalism than war-like manifestations, and you could imagine it as the background for some sort of sacred ceremony, perhaps where ayahuasca or some other natural hallucinogenic was involved. Track 4 begins with somber strings but it isn’t long before they are supplanted by a driving rhythm and indistinct lengthy agitated conversation samples. When the drums die down we”re left with an interlude of lengthy dialogue sample and the return of sad strings. The drum rhythm creeps back in but its different this time; less driving and more ominous. Eventually, fade to black.

This is an enigmatic work to say the least, and that these compositions were made using only 4 sound sources is remarkable. Although this album may never end up being number one on your hit parade, it is something to turn to when you’re looking for something completely different. Limited Edition of 300 CDs, but as of this writing, there were only 17 copies left.

Paolo Bertoni, Blow Up

Barnacles + MB

Achim Breiling, Baby Blaue

Mit “Air Skin Digger” legt Matteo Uggeri im Mai 2018 das zweite Album seines Projekts Barnacles vor. Ganz ähnlich verpackt wie der Vorgänger (siehe “One Single Sound”) kommt auch diese CD in einem vornehmlich rot und schwarz (und auch ein wenig weiß) bedruckten Mini-LP-Klappcover daher.

Das Cover und weitere Illustrationen sind übrigens freie Nachzeichnungen Uggeris, angelehnt an Hans Stadens im Jahre 1557 erschienenes Buch “Warhaftige Historia und Beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen”. Aus jenem stammt wohl auch der Text, den Uggeri für die Titel der vier auf dem Album zu findenden Stücke verwendet hat.

In musikalisch-stilistischer Hinsicht ist auf “Air Skin Digger” Ähnliches zu finden wie auf dem Erstling. Allerdings ist die Musik deutlich rockiger ausgefallen, stehen E-Gitarrenklänge und Schlagwerk deutlicher im Mix. Die meisten Sounds wurden übrigens von älteren Werken Uggeris, oder von Sparkle in Grey recycelt, effektverfremdet, und ergänzt um allerlei Elektronisches und diverse Klangfragmente, Geräusche, Sprachfetzen und Field Recordings. Die Musik kommt diesmal deutlich rhythmischer daher, wirkt meistenteils wie elektronischer Prog, mit gewissen Bezügen zur 80er-Jahre-Musik von King Crimson (“Discipline”), was vor allem für den von hallenden und plingenden Gitarrenmustern à la Fripp bestimmten zweiten Track gilt. Streicherklänge sorgen im abschließenden Stück dagegen für getragene Kammerprogatmosphäre, im Mittelteil und gegen Ende allerdings begleitet von eher hektischen Schlagzeugmustern.

Ansonsten arbeitet sich die Musik elektronisch hallend und schallend voran, hypnotisch-repetitiv, klangvoll, farbig angereichert mit diversen Soundfundstücken, treibenden perkussiven Mustern und instrumentalen Einlagen, ambientartig schwebend, vertrackt rockend und industriell-bedrohlich dröhnend. Das Ganze schiebt sich jedenfalls sehr abwechslungsreich und voluminös aus den Boxen, wirkt wie ein vertonter Patchworkteppich, ist dabei aber sehr homogen verwoben, und strahlt eine sehr eigene, postrockig-elektronisch-progressive Atmosphäre aus.

Wer elektronischen Instrumentalprog schätzt, sollte hier einmal reinhören.


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