Review: Barlow / Peterson / Wivinus - The Transparent World (2001)


artist: Bar­low / Petersen / Wivinus
release: The Trans­par­ent World
format: CD
year of release: 2001
label: Hand/Eye
dur­a­tion: 66:17

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Rich Bar­low, Jesse Petersen and Erik Wivinus are a musical trio from Min­neapolis, Min­nesota, who’ve ban­ded together for a CD of acous­tic impro­visa­tional song­mak­ing. All three men have ample exper­i­ence in other musical and artistic pro­jects, and that shows in the final qual­ity of this excel­lent first album. Only a demo CD-R came out before this, if I under­stand cor­rectly, and no album has yet fol­lowed.

The music on The Trans­par­ent World is instru­mental, largely impro­vised, com­pletely acous­tic, and quite exper­i­mental in nature. A wide range of instru­ments and play­ing styles is used, includ­ing 6 and 12 string gui­tars, man­dolin, zither, per­cus­sion, piano, and exotic stuff like ‘rat­tle­trap’ and ‘freeman’s mono­string’. The res­ult of this an excel­lent album of moody, evoc­at­ive acous­tic music.

In a way, many parts of the album sound dis­tinctly ‘Amer­ican’, and in a very pos­it­ive way. The open­ing track, “Bur­ied Under Crows”, imme­di­ately makes this clear. The slide gui­tar gives the track a musical col­our that for a non-American like myself is typ­ical for the wild nat­ural areas of the States. The song could come straight from the prair­ies, though not in a way as cliché as that sounds. This kind of feel­ing returns often on the album, and I envi­sion a musical jour­ney through des­ol­ate plains, murky bay­ous, fron­tier rail­road towns, and so forth, but all in a deeper, dif­fer­ent way than most cul­tural com­mon­places. Bar­low, Petersen and Wivinus not only depict these land­scapes, but also the ghostly and myth­ical lay­ers bey­ond. Though the musical con­nec­tion is not always strong, one can con­sider this music as a sort of Amer­ican coun­ter­part to what Xenis Emputae Trav­el­ling Band is for Bri­tain.

Of course, all this inter­pret­a­tion is highly per­sonal, and might not reflect what oth­ers feel with this kind of music. Stick­ing more to aural facts, it’s safe to say that these are ten ori­ginal, com­plic­ated and grip­ping tracks, some­times calm (yet brood­ing), some­times more intense, but always strong, dreamy, evoc­at­ive. The album can also be com­pared to more recent pro­jects like A Broken Con­sort and The Juni­per Mead­ows (though for more elab­or­ate than the lat­ter), but it also pred­ates them, mak­ing this an import­ant album from the begin­ning of the dec­ade. It’s a shame this has been it so far, and I hope a fol­low up will appear some time. Until then, this is an excel­lent album that no one into freefolk and exper­i­mental acous­tics can afford to miss.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Bur­ied Under Crows (7:58)
2. Boat­man (4:44)
3. An Unmarked Trail (10:41)
4. Husk (3:15)
5. Death’s Door (4:06)
6. Flint­lock Tinc­ture (4:25)
7. That Night (6:38)
8. Cre­ation Myth (13:14)
9. Ray of Day­light (1:28)
10. Retri­bu­tion (9:48)