Keyboard & synthesizer pioneer Richard Barbieri has long blazed an influential trail with bands such as Japan and Porcupine Tree, in addition to successful collaborations with Marillion's Steve Hogarth and No Man's Tim Bowness. Planets + Persona is his third solo album, which finds its home on the very capable Kscope label, and contains seven tracks of rich instrumental music brimming with jazz and new age elements, as well as the space age electronica he's come to be known for. Barbieri has brought along a core of musicians to help out with the songs, adding some acoustic flavors throughout which adds some depth to these airy compositions. "Night of the Hunter" features some ethnic string instruments which adds a mysterious yet enchanting flair, while soaring saxophone drifts over Barbieri's wash of spacey synth patches on the majestic "New Found Land". A song like "Interstellar Medium" is best experienced on headphones, with the little percussive bits, dreamy bass, female vocalizations, and keyboard blips buzzing from channel to channel, and "Unholy" also is some serious ear candy, the space rock styled synths wafting above groove laden rhythms and sultry sax. "Solar Storm" is one of the more upbeat tracks here, a mix of jazz-fusion and electronica, as is "Solar Sea", with the elastic bass work of Percy Jones providing for a cool spring board for Barbieri's synth textures.
Ultimately, Planets + Persona is one of those albums that you want to just take you away for an intergalactic ride, letting the music do the navigation while you are simply on board for the adventure. Not a lot of overly upbeat material, but if intelligent, ambient electronic music is your thing, this is a fun, jazzy, and spacey set from one of the most clever keyboard composers of the last four decades.
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New Found Land
Night of the Hunter
Shafts of Light