Other reissues are coming soon including the much requested "Poetry for motorways" and "Picnic". The latter album was recorded entirely with the Casio VL-Tone and various effects, no other instrument was used. Due to the cult status of the instrument it has been one of the most requested reissues.
Life may always surprise us: in fact, reviewing the brilliant reissues of Dusk, Keys & Ludi Funebres with a delay of 45 years, it may seem strange and in the case of Barry Lamb's records even unforgivable, but the new compact disc technology has allowed me to rectify the problem, since at the at the time these works had only come out on cassette and also because their distribution was in limited handmade quantity. First of all, I can say that this listening was revelatory and compelling like few others.
If it is true that these compositions photograph a particularly fertile moment in the music scene, like the awareness of DIY and the growing interest in alternative distribution channels (punk rock, the new wave), it is also true that their author seems to be following a path in which only distant echoes remained of rock culture; in the above three works we certainly find ourselves in experimental soundscapes but also in a new territory, closer to musique concrète without the uncomfortable labels of serious music. The perfect title Ludi Funebres (Latin for funerary games) describes the musician's practice as dramatic and at the same time playful, a sort of creative therapy in which the most diverse sensations coexist, from darkness to light, a music of the inner human spheres.
In listening to the three works repeatedly (also in a rewarding continuous session) I noted some essential points on small pieces of paper:
1) Barry Lamb avoids all the clichés of experimental and industrial music, choosing instead a personal way of electric construction, the one that E.Varèse and T. Dockstader called “organized sound”; 2) the aforementioned construction is of an almost symphonic quality with rhapsodic sections, zen-like percussion passages, disturbing loops, sinister toy organs, post-prog mellotrons, martial and mechanical rhythms (no drum machines here); 3) these three works cover an important period of time in the development of independent music (1977-79) but still retain a timeless ritual value; 4) the use of language perfectly immersed in the pre-digital reality in which the author operates and the surprising vocal inserts have a sort of narrative approach closer to poetry than traditional singing, a rich poverty without the use of synths, vocoders, personal computers or other luxurious means.
Dusk, Keys & Ludi Funebres are a cycle of works that documents both a personal creative development and a real musical evolution and should be cited at least as much as the contemporary works of the overrated Eno; in fact where the latter chooses to be pleasant and lazy, Barry Lamb chooses the opposite path of a difficult music that does not take prisoners and from which there is no escape. I was fascinated by the use of dynamics (from pianissimo to fortissimo) and by the painstaking attention to detail, especially considering the limits of the medium available: the sound here really shines from analog to digital. From these 3 discs I got a sense of a continuous invention, a passion for pure sound that made it familiar to my ears for methods and solutions. It would be unfair to compare some moments to previous or contemporary authors, but who would be able to bring together such different artists as Terry Riley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luc Ferrari, Jan Steele, early Cabaret Voltaire, Derek Bailey, Prog rock and sound-collage? And these are only vague or distant references for those in need of maps or directions, but certainly no one would have been able to merge them into a single concept like the composer. In my first book Riproduzione Casuale (written in Italian, sorry) I argued that the same music varies if it is listened to in the morning, afternoon or evening: I tried all three possibilities with Barry Lamb's works and they always show different perspectives and emotions.
In this era of massification and tested patterns (even in the avant-garde itself) we absolutely need this artisan music, a humble idea of a sincere and anarchic spirituality, a wonderful humanism ancient to the future.
- Alessandro Monti
The Italian language version of the review can be found here: