Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury

Q&A: Portishead producer Geoff Barrow on hip hop, krautrock, and film scores

DROKKGeoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury: Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One (Invada, 5/1/12)

“Lawmaster Pursuit”

Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury: “Lawmaster Pursuit”

If there’s one band that pulled off the long, mysterious hiatus with mystique intact, it’s Bristol, England’s Portishead. Yet when the ’90s trip-hop act resurfaced in 2006, it had substantially changed — gone were the down-tempo beats and much of the melancholy, replaced with a new sound and sparse, driving rhythms that owed more to krautrock than Def Jam.

Beatsmith/songwriter Geoff Barrow was guiding it that way. Since the reunion, he’s been on fire, issuing music in a variety of guises with Beak> (a rock band), Quakers (a sprawling hip-hop project), and as Drokk (a soundtracking duo). That’s not including the records that Barrow has produced for others and released on his label, Invada.

With no shortage of topics in tow, we caught up with Barrow to talk about drum sounds, film scores, and writing music for Judge Dredd.


Interview: Pelican stretches far, geographically and acoustically, on Ataraxia / Taraxis

This content appears in the iPad-exclusive ALARM 39. Download it for free and subscribe to our new print edition.

PelicanAtaraxia-TaraxisEPcoverartworkpackshot400pxThrashHits-47074_200x200Pelican: Ataraxia / Taraxis (Southern Lord, 4/10/12)

“Lathe Biosas”


Ten years is a time frame in which anything can happen, especially in the music industry. Relationships begin and end, bands come and go, and trends begin and overturn, causing new heroes to rise and the kings of yesterday to be left in the shadows. But sometimes bands remain on top of their territory past this milestone and beyond.

Enter Chicago’s Pelican, whose ten-plus years on the circuit have taken it around the globe and left it in the higher ranks of post-metal acts. Though 2010 marked the band’s tin anniversary, 2012 is a year of progress, reflected in its new EP, Ataraxia / Taraxis.

Morrow vs. Hajduch

Morrow vs. Hajduch: Polinski’s Labyrinths

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Polinski: LabyrinthsPolinski: Labyrinths (Monotreme, 11/8/11)

Polinski: “Tangents”

[audio:|titles=Polinski: “Tangents”]

Morrow: Following its first three albums, England’s 65daysofstatic took a step away from its experimental beginnings — when it collided instrumental post-rock with glitchy breakbeats — to craft an album that was more a fusion of rock and dance. (Think of Holy Fuck, only moodier and with more of the band’s core elements.) Now 65DOS computer dude Paul Wolinski has headed straight to the dance floor for his solo debut. It’s purportedly inspired by the darker synth sounds of 1970s and ’80s sci-fi flicks, but even though there is the occasional John Carpenter moment, Labyrinths is much more clubby than scary.

Hajduch: I like how the promo MP3s came all in ALL CAPS and look like the music of a CRAZY PERSON. The tunes are a bit busy and energetic for the Carpenter comparison – they’re more like a Rustie that’s been toned down. Opener “1985-QUEST” sounds exactly like the title. You could watch VHS end-credits to it, or maybe do some aerobics. If anything, the clubby bombast here sounds a lot like Gatekeeper, which does the “horror disco” thing about as well as anyone could hope to.

Morrow vs. Hajduch

Morrow vs. Hajduch: Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Oneohtrix Point Never: ReplicaOneohtrix Point Never: Replica (Software / Mexican Summer, 11/8/11)

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Replica”

[audio:|titles=Oneohtrix Point Never: “Replica”]

Hajduch: One-man experimental electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never is discussed in the same breath with all the other John Carpenter / kosmische / synthesizer music that has garnered attention the past few years (most notably, the oft-mentioned-here Emeralds). However, during that time, the Oneohtrix sound has wandered further and further from the reservation, incorporating blistering noise and looped samples. Replica continues this trend, layering the mournful polysynth washes with odd, clipped samples from television commercials.

Morrow: We talked about Daniel Lopatin‘s collaborative Ford & Lopatin (with Joel Ford of Tigercity) back in June, but that was a much more ’80s-influenced and synth-heavy album. Replica is very ambient, and though it may seem shapeless at first, there are all sorts of sampled melodies percolating beneath the surface. To those unaccustomed to this style, the album can come off as inaccessible or difficult to appreciate, but if you spend some time and immerse yourself in the waves of sound, it should grow on you. The subtlety of the music is best served with repeated listens.


Syntaks: A Dream-Pop Love Child

Though started as a solo project by Jakob Scøtt, Danish dream-pop band Syntaks is now a duo, filled out by Scøtt’s muse and significant other, Anna Cecilia. As a result, the band’s most recent album, Ylajali, is a true labor of love.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Morrow vs. Hajduch

Morrow vs. Hajduch: Umberto’s Prophecy of the Black Widow

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Umberto: Prophecy of the Black Widow

Umberto: Prophecy of the Black Widow LP (Not Not Fun, 10/26/10)

Umberto: “Red Dawn”
[audio:|titles=Umberto: “Red Dawn”]

Hajduch: Horror-disco producer Umberto has become a quickly rising star since Chicago label Permanent Records gave his cassette/CD-R debut, From the Grave, a proper CD/LP release last year.  Now he has returned with Prophecy of the Black Widow, an LP-only release courtesy of Not Not Fun.  And though From the Grave cribbed liberally from 1970s horror-soundtrack juggernauts Goblin, the music this time around is much closer to everything great about John Carpenter‘s soundtracks, especially Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog.