Published May 18, 2016Nashville producer/percussionist Blake Barton has taken the amusingly irreverent stage name Mischa Lively for Pillow, released on Nashville, Tennessee-based RACECAR, Ltd. The EP convincingly melds live percussion with modern production techniques in a way that electronic producers across the beat-oriented spectrum would do well to explore.
Stylistically, Barton is working on the minimalist side of an experimental techno vein, with nice deep bass when it does arrive, making for a controlled and mature sound. The beats are the star of the show here, with Barton thankfully eschewing self-indulgent virtuosity in favour of restraint and composition. Surprisingly, the most obviously "live" moments are brief, usually during quick fills or breaks before things firm up once again.
Despite this programmatic approach, the fact that each drum-tone was recorded live does make a difference. You can never hit a drum the same way twice, and these infinite variations in attack lend the beats subtle dynamics that belie the more schematized rhythms Barton employs. It's a compelling combination.
Second track "Blakeup" is the best example of this, its playful beat leaving plenty of room for well-placed fills and flourishes, but third cut "A Posture For Learning" is another highlight, featuring a crackling, phased-out drum track (bongos? tabla?) percolating crisply in the background of an otherwise straightforward four-four beat.
While by no means the first to program with live drum sounds, Barton's choice to retain a strictly inorganic approach to rhythm sets his work apart nonetheless. He strikes an appealing balance with Pillow. (Racecar)