The Barr Brothers "Sleeping Operator"

Sleeping Operators opens with a short, atmospheric instrumental. Harp and banjo, two disparate stringed instruments, play side by side, creating a central harmony.  It’s indicative of the sophomore release from The Barr Brothers. Myriad instruments - obvious, unusual, or invented - congregate on songs that reflect folk, blues, world, and rock influences. Arrangements create surprising dynamics and lend atmosphere to intense emotional songs that heat up slowly, then burn to embers.

Brad and Andrew Barr, formerly members of the avant-garde rock band The Slip, bring a range of experience to this album. As boys the pair was exposed to African rhythms thanks to lessons from Malian percussionists. That influence plays out most directly on the groove-heavy blues track “Half Crazy.”  The African influence appears again on “Little Lover” on which Sarah Page uses her harp to mimic the Kora. Page’s transition from classically trained harpist to folk/rock band member is a fascinating one. Her instrument is central to many of the songs, which means a tempering of electric guitar and drums. Multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial offers numerous opportunities for the band to move in new and different directions as he contributes keyboards, bass, vibraphone, and marimba. Members Arcade Fire and The Patrick Watson band bolster the band’s multi-layered  and densely produced sound – offering steel and pedal guitar, brass. viola,  and ngoni.

Brad Barr puts William Butler Yeats poem “Easter” to music, using the title “England.” It was Yeat’s first attempt at a political topic about an English massacre of Irish nationalist. Barr presents his own attempt as political material on “Come in the Water” a song about a massacre of Israeli teenagers. Barr’s lyrics often reflect conflicting emotions, which lends to the intensity of album.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)

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