Photo Courtesy of The Flenser
Any musical work helmed by Connecticut musician Dan Barrett is certain to feature well-executed songs that span fathoms of sonic depth. But, exactly how one of those songs will sound depends entirely on which of his musical monikers it is released under.
Having already created several cult rock classics as Giles Corey and half of the duo Have A Nice Life, Barrett seized the downtime that quarantine brought him over the past year to revive his solo electronic project, Black Wing, and release its long-awaited sophomore effort, No Moon.
Barrett started Black Wing halfway through the last decade as a counterpart to his acoustic project Giles Corey, and No Moon marks Barrett’s first new music under the name since its 2015 debut, …Is Doomed.
During its nearly 60-minute runtime, No Moon presents bleak yet lush landscapes teeming with leisurely synth loops, crunchy drums and meditative mantra-like lyrics that complement the music but never overshadow it. Like the best ambient music, the record succeeds in lulling listeners into a vulnerable state right before jarring them out of it with a 180 degree turn.
For instance, the record’s shortest song, “Always Hurt,” sedates the senses with narcotic instrumentals swells and buried vocals only to be unexpectedly struck by the loud, staticky synths of “Vulnerable.” “Vulnerable,” which sounds like it was made with a cheap, blaring synth, presents the only challenging moment on No Moon. But, beneath its cacophony, there exists hints of a calming beauty.
Another worthwhile element of No Moon is its sampling. Drawing from Have A Nice Life, Barrett continues to incorporate spoken samples to beef up the record’s instrumental parts. None are as awesome as “Destinos” or as creepy as “Cropsey,” but tracks here such as “Vulnerable” and “Choir of Assholes / You Think It’ll Make You Happy but It Won’t” feature noteworthy background chatter. “Choir of Assholes,” the faux-triumphant centerpiece of the album, especially relies on an existential soliloquy that adds a kind of meaning to the song’s dense, moody atmosphere.
Throughout the nine songs that make up No Moon, Barrett threads themes of isolation, longing and loneliness: an apt musical impression of the past year. “Bollywood Apologetics,” the album’s opener and lead single, begins with the relatable lyrics, “I got time to myself but I don’t want it,” a perfect distillation for the age of quarantine. The hazy, quantized track sets the contradictory big-but-insular mood of the album.
But, while many of No Moon’s lyrics evoke existential and experiential laments — see “Is This Real, Jesus Christ” — its songs are musically structured and executed in pop, rock and experimental forms. Tracks such as “Ominous 80s,” “Sleep Amneac” and the 13-minute closer, “Twinkling” possess pop undercurrents with each track using bright, distorted textures and upbeat progressions. It’s a surprising change from Barrett’s past work, which skews to darker tones.
Although Dan Barrett is not primarily known for his electronic works, Black Wing’s No Moon is an essential album in understanding its creator’s full scope of expression. Acoustic or remixable, Barrett delivers songs that reel back the anxieties of our time and suggest the remedy of cosmic introspection.