Madison musician Terrance Barrett shares the title track from his electronic project’s new album. (Video still by Austin Duerst.)
Terrance Barrett tends to thrive in chaotic gales of sound that stir up raw emotions. His guitar work in the rock band Carbon Bangle (which was initially named Ion) often found him presiding over a couple of intimidating slabs full of effects pedals and playing parts that skittered between noisy psychedelia and technically complex post-hardcore. It seems like an excessive approach by any measure, but Barrett actually knows how to turn excess to his advantage, maintaining control over a wild array of sonic elements and harmonic ideas.
Barrett began sharing his experiments with synths, sequencers, and drum machines on his 2016 release Shame, and since then, his solo project Terran has developed into a bold collision of electronic music and psych-rock. (Full disclosure: Terran played a Tone Madison event in 2017.) Earlier this month Terran released a new track, “Dead Leaves On A Cool Breeze”—the title track for the first proper Terran album, due out February 1—along with a video directed by Austin Duerst.
The new track has a greater sense of tension and movement than most of the intriguing sonic experiments on Shame. With the bass that kicks in at just past the one-minute mark and the keening guitar solos that mark the middle section, Barrett sets off dynamic shifts that upend the atmosphere of the track. The one constant seems to be a one-measure synth arpeggio that repeats throughout the song, but everything else is in constant flux around it, from drums to Barrett’s vocal approach to additional layers of electronic chords and modulation. While he’s a far better guitarist and producer than he is a singer, he does put give his mournful, crooning vocal parts a well-balanced spot in the overall mix, not burying them but also not letting them overpower the other layers here.
Barrett tells me that the track is “about violence and my reaction to it.” To my mind, the controlled maelstrom here evokes the kinds of moments that force people into unfiltered confrontations with their own demons. It could be those lows where depression kicks the legs out from under you, or a sudden trauma shatters your confidence. Duerst creates a riot of colors and textures in the video—fizzing bubbles, undulating foams, and a heavy dose of the old-school liquid light show approach—that also threaten to drill down into some raw, not entirely pleasant psychic substrate.
“My music is always a reaction to the environment and circumstances that I see around me,” Barrett says. “I do think that Dead Leaves On A Cool Breeze is a much more active exploration of those reactions. It’s meant to waded through rather than reflected upon. Shame, for me, was like riding the bus going to work, whereas Dead Leaves is riding your bike through a hailstorm.”
I asked Barrett if that means the music on Dead Leaves is more emotionally intense. “Sure, you could say that. But I also think there’s a great deal of peace and meditation when you get through that hailstorm,” Barrett replied.
As he prepares the new release, Barrett is also busy with collaborations. Barrett and fellow Carbon Bangle member Brandon Washington—best known for his production work as Randal Bravery—have continued to work closely together, and have started up a new project called Revolver Ocelot. Barrett has a few other projects in the works, including a new duo with Tarek Sabbar, who shares his dual passions for guitar fireworks and meticulously tweaked electronics. Over time, making solo music has become more of a regular habit for Barrett, and he’s already working on more Terran material to follow up Dead Leaves On A Cool Breeze. Still, Barrett thinks that he’ll keep making solo music on a regular basis, and he’s already working on more Terran material to follow up Dead Leaves On A Cool Breeze.
“With Terran, I have the ability to confront ideas and emotions more directly and intimately,” Barrett says. “Every piece of every moment comes directly from my perspective, undiluted. There’s no ‘other lens’ involved in the process that these ideas flow through.”