Australian vocalist Tom Barton's "Wherever I Will Be," released as a standalone single in September of 2020, is, at its core, a meditation on life and loss. Extremely personal, revealing lyrics that recall "a beautiful and devastating conversation" that the singer had with his mother before her passing, it's a slow and somewhat intense offering that owes as much to Barton's keen ear for effects and electro-acoustic allure as it does to his entrancing vocals and taste in tasteful bandmatesin this case, Nathan Liow on keys and synthesizer, Isaac Barter on acoustic bass and Justin Olsson on drums.
Some have noted that Barton's past explorations are in alignment with work from boundary-breakers like Thom Yorke and Theo Bleckmann, and those comparisons prove accurate here. This (nearly) ten-minute travelogue opens on a deep, distant, glowing soundscapeambient and alien, save for Barton's hypnotic, wordless vocalsbut it's not bound to that ground. After 85 seconds in midair, there's a notable shift in character with the music moving from a zero-gravity state to a lulling largo that presents an emotionally open position. From there, Barton moves toward chorus mode with a titular croon over martial snare sounds before taking a step back to reflect on contrasts in life's journeyconnectedness vs. isolation, for example. His return to singing the title's phrase in praise then bookends a heightened sonic swirl. It's a structural triptych that offers one last direct glance at the song's core sentiment.
Barton refers to this song as a "9-minute philosophical epic of droning synths and vocal ragas, blurred acoustic/electronic boundaries, and lyrics confronting life and death." The truth couldn't be more accurate. This first piece from an as-yet-unreleased album titled Reflections offers volumes in its sounds and poetic glances at life's inevitabilities.
When Barton released his underappreciated debutAspirations (Baritone Music, 2014)there was an obvious sense of removal from strict musical party lines and styles. In the years since that album's release, he's clearly grown more comfortable and daring all at once. With "Wherever I Will Be," he's created a spellbinding work that owes no allegiance to any single camp and needs no contrast or company to gain notice.