Richard Barbieri - Planets + Persona - 2017



“... such a wide pallet of instrumentation ...”


On the 40th anniversary of Japan's first recording (March 3rd), Kscope released the new and third solo album from ex-member Richard Barbieri entitled “Planets + Persona”. The central theme of the album is duality. The beautiful artwork of the digipak and 16 page booklet features photographic scenes of dramatic Icelandic landscapes. The album combines vintage analogue synthesizers with acoustic instrumentation, and incorporates jazz elements, pitching Barbieri's unique sound designs against improvisations from a group of guest musicians that includes Percy Jones and Luca Calabrese. ProgVisions readers will know Richard as keyboardist of the already mentioned band Japan and Steven Wilson's Porcupine Tree project. He also made a great album together with Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth.


Richard Barbieri - synthesizer, electric piano (Fender Rhodes), sampler, programming of electronic percussion, sound design, grand piano.

Richard has used, abused and often morphed into instruments and textures the voices of vocalists Suzanne Barbieri, Steve Hogarth, Tim Bowness, Yukiko Taniguchi and Grice.

Guest musicians:
Kjell Severinsson - drums; Luca Calabrese - trumpet; Kyla's Assarsson - vibraphone; Lisen Rylander Love - voice, saxophone, Omnichord, Kalimba, sound design; Christian Saggese - acoustic guitar; Grice Peters - Kora; Axel Crone - bass guitar; Percy Jones - bass guitar


On this ambitious work you can find seven compositions. The music Richard is making is as always new, ambitions and often ground-breaking. “Solar Sea” is full of ambient soundscapes and repetitive rhythm patterns with some jazz elements. He is a master in combining these elements with the improvisational input of the guests musicians. In this piece we can hear instruments like the vibraphone and the trumpet. I love the use of the trumpet in melancholic and jazzy atmospheres.

This makes that the next composition “New Found Land” is one of my personal favorites. The delicate trumpet playing of Luca Calabrese reminds me of some releases on the German Quality Jazz label ECM records and in particular of the early solo work of keyboard- and trumpet player Mark Isham that were released on the Windham Hill label. Beautiful and spacious landscapes with blissful melodies. Now I realize that I miss the jazz output of Mark Isham who for years now is concentrating on film scores.

“New Found Land” and the next song “Night of the Hunter” could also be used as a film score. “Night of the Hunter” with it's acoustic instruments (acoustic guitar and Kalimba) in the first part “Summer” and the mysterious sounding second part “Shake Hands With Danger” with delicate use of voice samples and the last part “Innocence Lost” with the returning trumpet improvisations are extremely suitable for this purpose because of the cinematic character of those compositions. Little detail, “Night of the Hunter” is based on the film of the same name.

“Interstellar Medium” and “Unholy” are more Ambient soundscapes with lots of percussion and delicately use of the female voice. The beautiful opening of “Unholy” is spacious and dreamy like a fairy-tale. The second part is more rhythmic and jazz fusion oriented with percussion, bass and saxophone. The piece opens and ends with some intriguing grand piano melodies. “Shafts of Light” has sometimes a strange and dark Ambient atmosphere but you can also find delicate and atmospheric landscapes with instruments like the trumpet and acoustic guitar. The album closes with the piece “Solar Storm”. In this funky and jazzy tune the playing of bassist Percy Jones (Brand X) brings back some memories of Mick Karn (Japan).


Richard Barbieri's third solo album “Planets + Persona” is a gem that only reveals it's true beauty after several listening sessions. It is a beautiful album from a ground-breaking artist who is delivering beautiful melodies, ambient landscapes, electronic rhythms and melancholic smooth jazz atmospheres. The album sounds intriguing and mysterious. An album from an unique artist who always looks for renewal. I am impressed by his “Planets + Persona” album. An album that I would recommend to the open minded music lover.

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - March 2017 -   - Kscope (Bertus Distribution)