We can´t help it but every time we engage with Caterina it is impossible not to associate with the ex-Japan member Richard Barbieri, although to our knowledge they are not related in any way – apart from the fact that both are highly acclaimed artists and their fascination for synthesizers. In the former modular synthesizers to be more specific.

Ecstatic Computation is the follow up to Barbieri’s acclaimed 2017 album on Important Records, Patterns of Consciousness. It sees the analog synth maestro continuing her investigations into complex synthesizer sequencing and its effect on human perception and trance-induced temporal hallucinations.

If there’s one contemporary album that proves the musical potential of the modular synthesizer, it is Patterns of Consciousness. It’s easy to write the format off as an expensive and self-indulgent way to make music, but Patterns of Consciousness  is an exercise in composition and restraint, a minimalist synth masterpiece that sounds as if every detail has been considered for the effect it will have on the listener.

“A sort of angelic-evil tension – a strange coexistence of ecstasy and melancholia – has definitely shaped my musical thought,” she says. “For years I’ve felt that these two contrasting elements could hardly coexist in my music but after Patterns of Consciousness I’ve realized that this is something I am very interested in and want to explore more and more.”

Despite being one of electronic music’s most interesting new voices, Barbieri’s journey hasn’t been an obvious one. Although now based in Berlin, Barbieri studied classical guitar at the Conservatory in Bologna, where she listened to renaissance and baroque lute music, especially that of John Dowland and J.S. Bach. At the same time, she was going to noise and metal shows to see artists like Keiji Haino, Prurient, Corrupted and Master Musicians of Bukkake. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in electro- acoustic music, an interest she has developed at Stockholm’s famed Elektronmusikstudion.

In a recent interview Caterina was asked about minimalism in music and what it means to her:

Minimalism means exploration of repetition and the psycho-physical effects of repetition. In minimalist music the focus is on the processrather than on the form. Sometimes the music material doesn’t even change, or changes very gradually, but what does change is the way you listen to it. Music as a process, this is one of the most important teachings of minimalism for me.

In this music, the process of change of the material is important as it produces a process of change in the mind that is listening. Sound causing processes rather than objects, verbs rather than nouns.  So this music is more about the change we, as listeners undergo, rather than the change of the material itself. I change in the sound that changes. I am very interested in exploring how sound affects our perceptions.

In Patterns of Consciousness for example, I wanted to explore how patterns and permutation of patterns affect our perception of time and space, our memory, our consciousness, our feelings. The opening track of the album, ‘This Causes Consciousness to Fracture’, is a bit of a manifesto in that sense. The idea behind the piece is ideally infinite generation of new patterns through the permutation of a limited constellation of pitches. And when I perform it live, I am just showing the actual process of making that piece, the genesis of the music material from scratch, the generative principle through which all the patterns are derived. 

I see this as very much connected to minimalism but also generative music and any form of computation, actually. Every form of computation requires the formal definition of a set of data to produce a larger body of output. You work within a closed system but then you define a process, a generative grammar able to generate an open system of possibilities. What really interests me is turning that practice of computation from being just a formal technique – an automatic procedure – into a creative process, into ecstasy, contemplation, trance.

“Fantas”, is the first taste of the new record. A weird synth soundscape sets the atmosphere before helixing arpeggios and bright, pointilist patterns patiently cut through the track’s space. In 10 minutes, the subtly-modulating synth lines create an ambient state of timbre and melody, in a trance-like mode.

Listen to “Fantas” above, and pre-order the LP, which is due out May 3rd, at the Editions Mego Bandcamp here.