FAME Review: Tom Barrott - Sketches from an Island
Tom Barrott - Sketches from an Island

Sketches from an Island

Tom Barrott

Available from iTunes.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Yo, y'all, d'ya 'member the 90s "group" Future Loop Foundation, which issued an impressive 16 releases from 1996 to 2009? Well, 'tweren't no group at all but rather Brit DJ/producer Mark Barrott, who had evolved from a bass 'n drum format (the staticity of that modus typically bored the unliving bejeezus out of me and still does) into what was known as the Ibiza section of chill musics, mostly ambient work. I really dug the better elements of Ibiza (named after one of the Balearic islands off the coast of Spain) 'cause they tipped from Eno into jazz's Romantic NuJazz end—Lonnie Liston Smith, Grover Washington, etc.—as well as progrock's work in similar vein, and that's exactly what you get in Sketches from an Island.

The release reminds me at times of some of Kerry Leimer's old Palace of Lights work, at times of some of Klaus Schulze's IC label, and at still other times of the work that arose from the, to cite just one of the better examples, Software wave of electronic New Age musics (we'll conveniently leave Double Fantasy in the gutter). IC folded because Schulze didn't exhibit terribly cogent discretion, hoping for income from the dance/NuAge crowd rather than his home base: prog. Had he stuck with the Baffo Banfi, Robert Schroeder, etc. side of the house, the imprint might've stood a fighting chance, but it collapsed ingloriously. Barrott avoids all those pitfalls, cutting a fine line between several genres, meshing them in a skein wisely crafted. I first found myself caught up in this via the funk-fusion undercurent in Baby Come Home, the initial cut, a blend of old clav-based git-down, Dave Valentine flute patching, and Scots highlands music.

Much like Uwe Gronau, Barrott knows how to pen a fetching tune, then architect its manifests through myriad platforms, utilizing contrasting timbres from chee-zee Korg patches to sophisticated tones, all playing off each other for interestingly juxtaposed musical tensions resolved by mellifluity, then immediately re-enheightened by intelligent understructures, as in the mesmerizing dominant/subordinate serial loop in Dr. Nimm's Garden of Intrigue & Delight. Much of what's contained in Sketches reflects the alt rock ethos of the 80s progressing into the 90s (think Pet Shop Boys, Human League, etc., the cats who listened to Kraftwerk but also to Bacharach) sans all the goopy lyrics and stagey soap opera angst. You're going to have a hard time deciding whether to place Sketches under jazz, fusion, spunky hedonistic chill, or any of a number of slots, but don't worry about it: one hell of a lot of modern music in every genre is busy bending borders, so just smile, sit back, and enjoy instead.

Track List:

  • Baby Come Home
  • Dr. Nimm's Garden of Intrigue & Delight
  • Go Berri Be Happy
  • Essene
  • Formentera Headspace Blues (Pts. 1 & 2)
  • Deep Water
  • Island Life
  • Back to the Sea
  • Sacred Islands
All songs written by Mark Barrott.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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