Mark Barrott’s musical career has been a rather interesting and unusual run. Starting out in the 90s producing ambient-indebted DnB and Jungle as Future Loop Foundation, he has utterly reinvented himself over the last few years helming the International Feel label from his home in Ibiza. I-Feel has been on particularly good form of late, putting out a killer reissue and even wrangling Call Super into a rare remix gig. Meanwhile his own music took a sharp left-turn into Balearic and new age (two styles whose cool factor is on the cusp of uncurdling), putting out dreamy sunset electronica under a series of aliases and now seemingly settling on his birth name. His output has been rich and fine, but only this most recent release has made us at White Noise really sit up and take notice.
Barrott’s recent releases, particularly last year’s Sketches From An Island LP, have been pretty but sometimes failed to hold our attention. On Bush Society he has come up with a more winning sound that is utterly consuming. These two tracks swap dusky beaches for a rainforest bristling with life, a veritable sonic ecosystem with all manner of fascinating wildlife on display.
The core sound is a combination of sky-gazing new age synthwork and a set of distinct (though somewhat vague and generic) African rhythms and instrumentation, corralled into a mesmerising and coherent whole. Bush Society is the meat, beginning with a lullaby improvised on a thumb piano and genuine Amazon field-samples. Barrott does an excellent job of populating his rainforest with both real (sampled) and sonic wildlife – the melody like a cry of monkeys in the trees, the predatory growl of the lurking bassline, the varied percussion of the feet of a thousand beasts, even the ominous shake of the rattlesnake’s tail. It’s busy but never crowded, a particular talent in Barrott’s production, and utterly immersive as its ten minute runtimes unfolds.
If the title track is the epic, B-side Saviours Or Savages is like a diamond glimpsed on the forest floor, where the textured percussion and 80s synths return, here joined by a beautiful crystalline melody which totally steals the show, unspooling opulently with a real emotional tug. The nagging issues we had with Barrott’s latest output haven’t really been changed – it’s still all a touch gritless and can slip a little too easily into the background – but Bush Society offers so much more when you delve into its lush sonic world, a sound not just mellow but also somehow alive.