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BArTC 'Insubstantial as Ghosts' CD


3rd September 2021 CD in 4-panel digipack. There is also a very limited art edition of this - see the other entry.

BArTc is London based experimental electronic audio visual artist Jason Barton, with his nom de plume comprising the symbols for three chemical elements - Boron (B), Argon (Ar) and Technetium (Tc) - while also giving nods to both Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and his own surname.

'Insubstantial As Ghosts' is Barton’s debut album and contains fourteen highly atmospheric soundscapes. Taking the title from a William Gibson novel that was also used in a citation about Sleeping Sickness (‘they neither conveyed nor felt the feeling of life; they were as insubstantial as ghosts, and as passive as zombies’), he comments that “I have always loved the phrase as for me it perfectly describes minimalist, other worldly dark ambience.”

Initially inspired by instrumental electronic records in his father’s record collection by titans such as Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre, Barton soon gravitated towards underground ‘industrial’ icons such as Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, Chris & Cosey and Skinny Puppy, as well as digging deeper into the work of early German electronicists such as Cluster, Musique concrète pioneers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, plus the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Citing sound recordist (and Cabaret Voltaire co-founder) Chris Watson as another influence, adding that “I have always loved environmental sounds and often carry a field recorder on my travels which I use to create texture in my pieces.”

Further explaining his modus operandi, Barton explains: “I build layers to create something abstract yet strangely beautiful, mixing source material, organic and experimental sounds plus field recordings that are heavily distorted with various effects. For me, creating music is a form of meditation, and to lose oneself in an improvisation is a wonderful experience. I just need to remember to hit record!”

Having collected synthesisers and made music (both alone and with friends) for several years, Barton subsequently started the project Less Than One to create accompanying videos that he began posting on Instagram. Initially solely for his own work, he soon earned plaudits from a worldwide community of electronic artists that in turn has led to commissions from the likes of Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini.

Much of ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ was recorded in January 2021 while the UK was in lockdown. “I participated in an annual Instagram music making challenge, where artists post a short piece of music every day using the hashtag #jamuary2021. Recording my contributions at the same time every evening (22:23), I amassed many minutes of music and ideas. Some of these were expanded to become tracks for the album or inspired further recordings through the dark winter nights.”

ICR's  Colin Potter heard some of Barton’s work and agreed on a releasel. He has handpicked several of the pieces included on ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ and also mastered the album.

You can listen here :

And there is a short video taster here ;

And for one of the tracks here:

Review by Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly : Jason Barton is the man who use three chemical elements to make up his artist name; Boron (B), AArgon (Ar) and Technetium (Tc), as well as a nod to Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. His own name is also in there. Very clever! This is debut album, following work as as Less Than One which I didn't hear. His influences run as wide as Vangelis, Neubauten, Coil, Skinny Puppy, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry and Cluster. In Junary 2021 he released a short piece of music every night as part of some challenge, and these were expanded into the fourteen pieces of music on this CD. Bartc uses many electronics and heavily treated field recordings. Of the latter I can say we no longer recognize any of the toiginal sound, as these transformations are pretty extensive. In each of these pieces here he uses extensive layering of sounds, dark, omnious, moody, atmospheric. Bartc ticks all the right boxes hen it comes to doing powerful, dark ambient music. This is arelease by ICR, since many years the home of Colin Potter and it is not difficult to see similarities between Bartc's work and Potter's music. The use of synthesizers, samples, and sound effects paint a multi-coloured picture, psychedelic almost. This is not music to lull you to sleep. Play this loud and the soundtrack of nightmares will unfold. The music is immediately present, his drones are razor sharp (but never noisy for the sake of noise), owing just a bit to the world of industrial music, and his an fifty-five minute in the undercurrent of the mind. Excellent release!

Boomkat Product Review

Colin Potter’s legendary ICR host the debut issue of powerful drone improvisations by London’s Jason Barton aka BArTc 

Hand-picked and mastered by synth master Potter (NWW) for this release, the 13 tracks of ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ evidently share a realm of fascination with Potter’s own work. They are richly textured and immersive tracts of seemingly organically occurring electronics where its composer feels more like a fleshy medium for the circuit boards than the guy in charge of what’s happening.

In waves of thick, viscous tone he seamlessly consolidates raw synth sounds with field recordings, sometimes breaking off into unexpected pockets of inquiry, but more often helming to tunnelling vectors that drag its listeners into properly zonked head spaces with purpose and dread, perhaps best felt in the mighty traction of ‘Energy Field’ and the vertiginous dimensions and thousand yard stare dynamics of ‘Looking Into The Abyss’, recalling to our minds everythign from Potter’s work with Nurse WIth Wound to Giancarlo Toniutti’s grinding hypnagogia.

 Juno Records : For entirely obvious and understandable reasons, often records from the leftfield world don’t do very much, or offer at least much in the way of variety.  They have a tendency to settle into their chosen area and sound palate and hope you’ll join them on whatever astral plane they’re occupying.  Not so, however, in the case of London-based producer Jason Bunton aka BArTc .  His new album Insubstantial As Ghosts, released on the label run by Colin Potter of Nurse With Wound fame, feels like it blurs and blends so many different areas of the ambient/industrial/drone world that it genuinely becomes a trip into the unexpected. So you get a track like ‘The Isotopes of Yttrium’, which features throbbing bass grumbles a la Autechre or one of GPR’s more industrial acts and lovely controlled feedback not a million miles from LFO’s ‘Tied Up’.  But elsewhere there’s the slowly exploding single note harmonic-fest ‘Floods’, echoing the so-called big room ambient of guitar drone crew Growing or even Spiritualized in ‘Pure Tone’ mode.  Or the eerie, minimal slow melt ‘Skookum’, or the slowly crashing waves of feedback of ‘Staring Into The Abyss’ … We could go on.  In short, if you love carefully curated electronics balanced out by a healthy dollop noise and chaos, executed with a knack for drama and surprise, then this is the album for you.    

Tower Records, Dublin  : 

Opening track ‘Francium’ sets the scene, as we are tossed, hurtling into the orbit of Barton’s surreal, bleak sound world. Amidst distorted waves of electronic noise, and a cracked beat we land smoothly into the following track ‘Floods’. Barton cites industrial icons Coil, Einstuzende Neubauten and Skinny Puppy as formative influences, and where echoes of these group’s most abstruse of works do spring to mind - the aquatic techno rhythms of 'Malleus Incus Tapes' and the psychoactive pulse of 'The Isotopes of Yttrium' - it is perhaps the sound of pre-Virgin Records Tangerine Dream that BArTc is most evocative of here.

Barton has revealed listening to his father’s TD records had a significant impact on him and ‘Floods’ like TD’s largely rhythmless, texture based output for German label Ohr, presents a cosmic dreamscape, buzzing with intensity and mystery. Likewise, 'Boron' transpires in a similar nature, thought demonstrates more menace, scaling dissonant heights, constantly threatening – think Krzysztof Penderecki’s darkest works. ‘A Strange Glow Awaits Us All’ follows with whirring synthesized spirals submerged beneath ambient debris that calls to mind the early work of German electronic music pioneers Cluster at their most thrillingly unpredictable.  

Elsewhere tracks including ‘The Seraph’ conjure much beyond the ear-marked industrial acts, and instead point towards the ghostly psychedelic sci-fi of Eduard Artemyev’s soundtrack work for the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. ‘Skookum’ the album’s penultimate track engulfs the listener with cavernous shards of feedback, one of the album’s darkest tracks it recalls the nocturnal ambience of Lustmord and distorted drone of Kevin Drumm.  

Closing track ‘Oiseamouche + 14 The Organism’ sees our sonic exploration reach a point of completion with a marvellous finale. Skittering insectoid beats introduce the track before fading to a quietened series of drones and passages of dark, mercurial sound. The 11 minutes of ‘Oiseamouche + 14 The Organism’ utilises its extended runtime to patiently envelop the listener with bursts of empyreal light unfurling to illuminate the desolate, mediative rumbles. 
Insubstantial As Ghosts is a frequently enthralling trip through experimental, post-industrial drone and dark ambience. One that welcomely avoids straightforward, linear conclusions and instead offers fascinating pathways and diversions into the unknown.

Resident Records : This debut LP on Colin Potter’s label is an incredibly powerful work of field recorded industrial drone atmospheres. Check your soul in at the abyss!

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