Barbarossa has been a singular but never solitary figure on the British music scene for some time.
The chosen alter ego of James Mathé, the project matches his high, keening yet soulful voice to smattering of electronics.
New album 'Imager' will be released on May 11th via Memphis Industries, a further showcase of his delicate, painterly touch.
Fresh from working in Jose Gonzalez' live band, Barbarossa returns with no small degree of confidence. Collaborating with co-producer Ash Workman, the material dwells on displacement and loss – yet amid the sometime melancholy a real sense of the humane can be found.
Clash is able to stream the album ahead of release – check it out now, then find a track by track guide from Barbarossa below.
This was written on guitar after my friend Rozi Plain had told me about some tunings she liked to use. I then transferred the arpeggio to piano then eventually to my SH-101 bass synth which seemed to work best. It's a really simple tune, it's the riff driving the whole thing with the melody and phrasing etc. creating the shifts in dynamics.
Lyrically it's about acceptance, making a decision and sticking to it. An 'Imager' could be anything, it's basically saying I'm this or that and accepting the consequences, not afraid of outside opinion.
This was written on my casio SK1, I sampled my vocal and found it really easy to write using this sound. This eventually was played on an actual mellotron, which since I heard 'When' by Vincent Gallo, I wanted to use. I wrote the chorus melody in the studio really last minute and thought it could be good for Jose to sing it, it suits his vocal well and have always wanted to have him on a track since we became friends.
The idea for this track came from listening to lots of old soul like Al Green, Otis and new soul like Adrian Younge. It turned into something quite different by the end but I'm really happy with how it evolved.
This was written on my friend's piano when I was on tour with Low in Sheffield. I had been on tour a lot both with Barbarossa and playing live with Junip and seeing all these amazing cities and meeting all these great people and maybe thinking of living somewhere different in the future.
In this industry things can change so quickly and I'll never 100% where I'll be from year to year. It's the best and worst thing about what I do, especially with a wife and new baby boy who I have to leave behind.
This was actually written in Nevada on a drum machine app called DM1 during a Junip tour. I then replaced bass drum, snare etc but actually kept a few of the original sounds from the app too. We all became a bit obsessed with that app on the tour, there were some DM1 'jams' on the bus where we all played on our phones/iPads etc.
This was written in France at my friend Amaury's house in Saintes. He plays in Francois and the Atlas Mountains and I was demoing some new tracks with him and Gerard black from babe. We drank cognac and ate French pastries. He had a great piano and I was messing around with a cat power track and this song just came fully formed. I was ironically very happy at that time so not sure where these dark thoughts came from...maybe too much cognac.
Weirdly this was triggered from the James Blake track 'retrograde'. It sounds nothing like it but was really blown away by that track and that's what I had in my head when I sat down to write. It kind of turned out a bit like that All Saints' track from The Beach soundtrack. Katy Young from Peggy Sue sings on the chorus, she is my favourite female vocalist around, so it was incredible when she agreed to sing on this track.
I think in my head I wanted to do something along the lines of D'Angelo and Portishead. Again I think Adrian Younge creeps in here. Lyrically I wanted to have a big universal chorus that can be interpreted as either a generation disappearing or a relationship breaking down and disappearing.
I had this title for ages but didn't have the song. I was listening to lots of Caribou at the time and Prince and this was the result. It was the last track I wrote for this record, and it was good to get another an uptempo track. Looking forward to playing this live.
This was one of the first tracks I write for the record. I wrote it on Adem Ilhan's piano while he was mixing my last record. The ending took shape more in the studio with Ash Workman, who helped produce the record. He had a load of Simian Mobile Disco's synths in his studio, so we set them all up and this ending was the result.
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'Imager' will be released on May 11th.