James Mathé’s Barbarossa is quite an interesting and unique band. I realized this when getting into the first song of his new album called Bloodlines. One of the things he has said about the creation of his songs is that “ The best stuff usually comes when I’m hungover or not really thinking. The minute I try to be clever with words, it just sounds shit.” That is just brutal honesty right there and I love it! Emotion is the most important thing to me personally when expressing yourself; if you turn it into a practiced routine everything gets stale and the art suffers. This is not the only album James has done, his debut album Chemical Campfires released in 2008, since then he has gained notoriety as being one of the leading edge acoustic musicians in the British music scene.
Barbarossa is considered electronica, but doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before due to the use of the acoustics he has within his album. The organ is just sooo funky! The use of the organ brings a haunting yet familiar tone to his works, it’s almost chilling and allows his lyrics to hit their target with even greater accuracy. In his first song entitled Bloodline he begins with the slow lead in of the organ followed by a drum beat. The rhythmic beat those two create really feels like a requiem that you would see at a funeral. I don’t think you would see many requiems these days but that doesn’t matter as this type of work is still prominent today, and as we see here it’s still used. Even though this may all seem sad it isn’t, the song’s lyrics speak of moving and carrying what you can with you. A positive message if I ever heard one. The load is more of something I would hear from electronica, but the beats definitely have more of a rock feel to them. I like how electronia bands are branching out and becoming a lot more varied than just the techno scene they were once known for. I for one never knew a lot of this was possible until the past few years when artists began to experiment with emulating what acoustic bands do. His lyrics are again powerful with a lesson about taking things for granted that we can all be accused of. Barbarossa seems to have taken a heavy tone with this album and is touching on some deep subjects. Another interesting piece of work is Battles, which makes use of the drum beat that imitates the battle drums of wars long past. Talk of silence amongst the physical confrontation of the song by both the lyrics and rhythm integrate here exceptionally well. The song emanates the feeling of loss and conflict quite well.
It’s always hard to catch problems with an album you like but we’re going to try anyways. I do feel his lyrics were a little weak and hard to understand in some songs, I had to look up what he actually said a couple of times. The organ that I love within many of his songs also does feel out of place here and there. I don’t think it was easy to incorporate it so that meant that there were a few mess-ups along the way. He did state however that he recorded this album on analog equipment because he intended there to be mess ups to increase the organic feel of the album.
Overall Bloodlines was a very good album, I enjoyed the uniqueness of the sound James Mathé has created. It has a funky and very fresh new look to electronica, at least here in the states. I would recommend this album to someone who is interested in fresh perspectives and deep thought when they listen to their music. Bloodlines is on sale now so go check it out!