Barrens, Penumbra Review (Pelagic Records, 2020)

An instrumental treatise on the meaning of meaning, Penumbra is the debut release from Barrens. The music soars. Where it goes is something your mind decides when you listen.

Penumbra is the debut album from a recently formed band, but the members of Barrens have been around for a couple of decades, and they are seasoned professionals: Johan G. Winther (guitar, synthesizers), Markku Hildén (drums, percussion), and Kenneth Jansson (bass, synthesizers). Working out of Gothenburg (the Bandcamp profile reads Malmö), Sweden, the band creates unusual multi-layered compositions that typically have a sinister or dark feeling embedded in them to go along with the sound itself. That is my sensation, anyway – it is easy to see how different people might have divergent experiences to Penumbra. The music finds it center with the synthesizers in combination with the percussion and folds in the string instruments for depth and emphasis along a plentitude of paths.

The title of this album is perfect – the region between light and a cast shadow. It is an edge, a line, but it is not perfectly distinct and it is, presumably, penetrable. A poignant example is the song “Arc Eye” where there are three different musical layers in the first part of the song that do go together but could easily exists separately and on their own. In another dimension on the penumbra theme, just past two minutes in, there is a loud cascade of sound that crashes into the existing stable elements, blending with them, and then disappearing. Like an eclipse of the sun, you might say. That leading edge was a discreet event that came and went, yet in this music it also had a lasting impact – the song changed from there on. Throughout the nine songs there are many different attitudes, sentiments, and emotions churning on their own while also culminating in an identifiable whole. With no vocals to affect your experience, you can more easily join the environment the musicians create and take a distant wander in your mind.

Penumbra is out now on Pelagic Records, and streaming and downloadable in the usual many places. Try listening to the entire album in the dark and see where it takes you. Recommended.


Barrens, Penumbra Review (Pelagic Records, 2020)