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Tom Barton: Aspirations

Dan Bilawsky By

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Australian vocalist Tom Barton aspires to blur the lines between genres on this debut. Electronic and acoustic thoughts merge and co-exist beautifully, improvisational elements are born around concrete expressions, and in the middle of it all sits Barton, putting his poetry in motion with beautifully clear-headed vocals.

While the gist of many an album can be gleaned from a single track, Aspirations doesn't work that way. If someone were to simply stumble upon Barton's take on "Spencer The Rover," they might mistake him for a modern folk troubadour. And if Bjork fans were to encounter his slowed-down, thinned-out take on "Hyperballad," they might simply view Barton as an atmospheric traveler. But then there's also "Motion," a number clearly steeped in modern jazz language, "Dirt & Vibration," an artfully crafted piece that opens on a somewhat chirpy idée fixe and continues to grow and evolve from there, "Pearl Point," a performance that conjures thoughts of the sonic marriage between Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry, and the darkly expressive "When Did I Give Up?," a number which descends into a ghostly netherworld in midstream. So which one represents the true Tom Barton? The answer is the obvious one: each number represents a piece of Barton, and when Aspirations is heard from start to finish, a full picture of his artistry comes into view.

In putting this album together, Barton put together a band that's more than capable of helping him achieve his vision. Pianist Joseph O'Connor can resort to simple seesawing arpeggios when needed ("Tenchi"), but he puts on his jazz hat when the music calls for it ("Vessel" and "Motion"); bassist Philip Rex and drummer Peter Evans have a way of alternately blending into the electro-acoustic tapestry and standing out; saxophonist Andy Sugg is used sparingly, but he makes his appearances count ("Tenchi" and "Pearl Point"); guitarist Stephen Magnusson can work in spooky and ethereal places or remain grounded, depending on the circumstances; and vocalist Georgie Darvidis adds another layer of humanity to "Pearl Point." They all help Barton to turn his aspirations into reality.

Track Listing: Dirt & Vibration; Hyperballad; Vessel; Spencer The Rover; Motion; When Did I Give Up?; Genome; Tenchi; Tjukurpa; Pearl Point.

Personnel: Tom Barton: voice: vocals, live effects processing; Joseph O'Connor: piano; Philip Rex: double bass; Peter Evans: drums; Stephen Magnusson: guitar; Andy Sugg: saxophone; Georgie Darvidis: vocals.

Title: Aspirations | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Bartone Music

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