Catherine Nelson
The Strad
October 2010

This album was something of a labour of love for Matthew Barley—he recorded it at home on his own equipment after over the years building up a repertoire of pieces by John Metcalfe for electronic cello. It was a steep learning curve: ‘I was engineer, producer, editor, and computer sound-designer – not to mention cellist,’ he writes in the booklet.

The result is compelling, and at times extraordinary—Metcalfe’s lyrical, contemplative lines are drawn with infinite care, and the immediacy and tenderness of Barley’s performance makes this music addictive. The organum- like sounds of Tracing the Outline, in which the computer duplicates Barley’s sound a fourth below in places, draw you in with their lush, slowly building textures. Constant Filter, the title track, lays a singing acoustic cello line over hovering electronics to great effect.

The five movements of Kite, for cello and piano ‘with a hint of electronics’, are brief yet lovely, particularly the dream-like opening and closing movements. Lonely Bay—in which each phrase reappears exactly 40 seconds later—is wonderfully contemplative, and Barley uses his fine ear for colour to make every nuance and gesture count. Metcalfe has achieved the unusual feat of creating electronic music that sounds organic and heartfelt, and in Barley he has a hugely persuasive advocate.