Barker, Berghain resident and Leisure System co-founder, has spent the last few years exploring the euphoric potential of altering key variables in dance music formulas. This is perhaps best captured on his 2018 Ostgut Ton EP debut, Debiasing, which was flush with unconventional rhythmic chord stabs, melody, and percussion but entirely devoid of kickdrums. What seemed like an experimental exercise on paper was in reality equally geared towards the club, and this model— tracks that work for the floor while resisting the genre categorizations that kick drums often provide—has come to define Barker’s sound.
With Utility, Barker turns his focus toward melding experimentation and dancefloor pragmatism with the psychology behind the music-making process.
In his own words: “After Debiasing, it occurred to me that my musical decisions were often unintentionally utilitarian, following an instinct to maximize pleasure in one way or another. It’s sort of unfashionable to admit, but by removing elements that have strong genre associations, this became a natural consequence.”
Accordingly, Utility is a playful musical approach to a whole spectrum of utilitarian and trans-humanist ideas: from models for quantifying pleasure and “gradients of bliss” to abolishing suffering for sentient beings (not just people) through the ethical use of drugs and nanotechnology. Over nine tracks, we're told that Barker’s vision ebbs and flows through waves of deeply psychedelic musical vignettes; expect free-floating and futuristic melodies and rhythms targeted at brain stimulation.
The album draws heavily on modular synthesis, as well as self-built mechanical instruments and plate reverbs to create atmospheres that are "at once alien and emotionally recognizable, functional and utopian," the label explains. It follows Barker's recent white-label 12", Barker001.
A1. Paradise Engineering
A3. Experience Machines
B1. Gradients Of Bliss
B2. Hedonic Treadmill
C1. Models Of Wellbeing
D2. Die-Hards Of The Darwinian Order
Utility LP lands on September 6.