Band: Matthew Barber
Album: Phase Of The Moon
Label: Outside Music / H’Art
Phase Of The Moon is the title of the plaintive and soulful new offering from Toronto singer-songwriter Matthew Barber on the Outside Music label. Following his Gary Louris-produced Big Romance (2014) and Juno-nominated collaboration with sister Jill on The Family Album (2016), Phase Of The Moon marks Barber’s confident return to producing himself, with veteran Ken Friesen handling the engineering duties. The introspective, first person narrative voice that has become a hallmark of Barber’s writing is further developed and refined on this new collection of songs that explore themes of love, commitment, purpose, fulfillment and meaning. Throughout, Barber’s delivery is honest and direct in a style that tips its hat to the golden era of 70’s singer-songwriters, yet remains uniquely his own.
The songs on Phase Of The Moon were mostly written in a tiny studio apartment in the Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre where Matthew and his wife spent a month in early 2017. It came with a small upright piano and had thin walls, which could explain why piano songs sung in deeper, hushed tones feature prominently on the record. The winter sojourn in Europe provided a welcome respite from the all-consuming media madness back home, and coupled with a steady diet of existentialist reading material, served to foster a mood of almost contented melancholy that seeped into the songs and runs throughout the record. This mood is at times manifested in the form of a solitary searcher reflecting on what’s come before and wondering what lies ahead, and at other times through words of support addressed to a concerned partner that reveal a commensurate plea for reassurance that everything’s going to be ok. The quiet storm is punctuated by necessary and at times exuberant affirmations of love, hope and wonderment, and a spirit of embracing life in all its complexity endures.
“‘The Painter’ was written after a moving visit to a nearby art museum,” says Barber. “‘Hanging On The Line’ begins as a paean to modest values and morphs into a loose commentary on our wayward modern civilization. The title track ‘Phase Of The Moon’ is probably the most personal song on the record about the struggle to overcome setbacks beyond our control. ‘All In A Dream’ is how I sometimes feel when I’m traveling, putting reality on hold for a little while.”
The performances that make up the record were captured over three days in the historic Almonte Town Hall in eastern Ontario, with its ghosts, high ceilings and Steinway grand piano setting the scene for the recording. Starting with the solo vocal and piano or vocal and guitar as the centre, the tracks were built outwards and took on different shapes as other instruments were added at Friesen’s studio in Almonte, as well as back in Toronto where the exquisite string parts were arranged and performed by Drew Jurecka. The record was thoughtfully mixed by Darryl Neudorf at his barn in Mono, Ontario, and the album art was made by Toronto artist Heather Goodchild.
Phase Of The Moon will be available on LP, CD and all digital platforms May 4, 2018.