Process Shape Space

Steve Barnes steps up to his Kurzweil sampler-keyboard and lets loose with ten shape-shifting electronic instrumentals filled with deep, naked sounds. Barnes is no bang-you-over-the-head producer of electronica; he's a craftsman who gains top marks for his subtlety, substance and smarts. Shape Space is light and graceful at points, more raw and edgy at others. "SMP-K Option 1" is deep, dark, dubby and hypnotic; it grooves slowly, like syrup dripping down a tree, and produces a sexy tension through movement, a deliberate build, and beats both obvious and implied. The trio of "Shape-Mod" pieces feature brighter keys, lighter moments, and are clearly intended for the body as well as brain with beats that are more full. "Shape Mod (a)," in particular, is the closest this album gets to a dance floor moment, with strong percussion and more banging sounds. The piece is incredibly pure as it builds around a backbone of steady beats, adds layers such as simulated steel-pan drum sounds, and is very articulately stripped back to whence it came. "Untitled" pieces "1 and 2" will appeal to admirers of dark ambient sound as they push, pull, slink and slide; and fans of the Orb will appreciate the lighter and brighter "Recreational Structure." (Fat Cat)