WHOOOOOO!! Total, undisputed DELIGHT!!!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, granted, I'm still in the orgasmic throws of those magical first 5 or 6 listens of a solidly great album, but discovering Barafundle is one of the best things to happen to me this year. The many influences and references are minced so finely they are (thank god) not just another group where "Beatles' or "Brian Wilson" figure primarily in their reveiws. A total treat for the senses and cannot think on where to begin naming it's stellar moments - the joyfull kick into Welsh crooning on "Patio Song", the gorgeous "Sometimes the father..", the insane climbs & desents of "Miniature Kingdom" - I love it all, and any album that can make me dance when I'm lying flat on my back in bed with the headphones on is OK in my book! Cant wait to hear more of them..."
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For an old timer like me who listened to alot of (gasp!) progressive rock in the 1970's, this band is quite a find. They've dispensed with most of the self-indulgent tendencies that marred much of the output from that era, and there isn't a trace of bombast in their music. What they do have here on "Barafundle" is a wonderfully melodic, whimsical music that blends together influences like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Canterbury progressive like Soft Machine and Caravan, and the Incredible String Band. The songs, while concise and always between 2 and 4 minutes or so in length, feature unconventional structures with frequent shifts in meter and key. The instrumentation is eclectic as well, with tons of keyboards like organ, moog, and harmonium, plus jew's harp, violin, and various guitars. There is a playfulness and sense of experimentation that combine with some gorgeous melodies to make it a very enjoyable, heady listen. There's nothing at all retro about GZM's music, but it does often harken back to the early days of progressive rock."
Extremely pretty, if you just tilt your head right
Brian Block | Greensboro, North Carolina | 03/16/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've noticed, writing these reviews, that while I do use words like "attractive", "pretty", "beautiful", and "gorgeous" to flatter a piece of music, there always seems to be a catch: I'm describing 5 songs out of 19, or one element of a sound that otherwise, one can quickly assume, is vile cacaphony. But when a maximum-prettiness diet is what I want, I listen to BARAFUNDLE. This could, on close examination, seem to be the failed exception that proves the rule. After all, you might think, there have to be pretty records that don't include tracks like "Merion Wyllt", where the bassist twice interrupts with his best imitation of Cliff Burton (in Cliff's days of being alive and with Metallica, that is) while the electric violin is switched to "screech". You might insist that some pretty albums don't have "Miniature Kingdoms", where the brass fanfare that opens and ends has little to do with the folky interpinnings, and the march for overcaffinated men with broken feet comes out of nowhere (and what's that dissonant bass rumble you can just barely hear, anyway?). And "Barafundle Bumbler" has those classic-sounding ominous chords for a brief appearance or two.Frankly, though, you're being too picky, focusing on exceptions. This is a truly lovely record, strongly influenced by Robert Wyatt and by PRESERVATION SOCIETY Kinks but tracing its origins back to many eras before that. Classical and folk guitar, not rock; brass and woodwinds and violins, piano and tambourines, gently harmonized vocals, a synthesizer set at shimmery and whooshy settings. To a music scholar, the eclecticism's got to be stunning, a hundred year range of pop stylings when it's not reaching further back than that, and advertising had already developed fully enough that fashionable people in 1928 were fully qualified to sneer "Ugh! How 1922!". Then again, it once was obvious to the educated classes that Bach and Mahler were polar opposites, but today both of them sit with Andy Partridge and Stephen Sondheim and Steve Kilbey and Tom Petty among my Mom's favorite composers and I, stuck with my generation on po-mo replay, think "Not bad for an old lady, I guess". Still, even _I_ can tell that if you start and end a song ("Pen Gway Glas") with a minor-key early choral arrangement, it's not supposed to switch to pedal steel, then a jaunty bit with pounding drums and noises a la the BBC Radiophonics Workshop. Nor does any of that connect to "Cursed, Cloned, Crucified", which sounds like a baroque composer trying to land a 2:27 single in the 1963 pop charts, and all of this seems removed from the frequent lightly Broadway vibe.Nor does it have to connect; it's all, um, pretty. Really, really pretty. I might have doubts about artistic intent: a sweet lyric like "and if you really want to kiss her, then go ahead and say. Isn't it a lovely day?" seems a bit sabotaged by immediately bringing in guitar, doubling the speed, and starting to sing in rapid Welsh. And I dare suspect sarcasm in "Diamond Dew", where the loveliest arrangement of the whole year goes with "Awake, awake, to love and work, poppies in the sky. Fields are wet, diamond dew, what a way to cry. Child comes home, home from school, singing melodies. Love is warm, perfect room, house by the sea. And we'll think it all again", the suspicious last line kicking off a hard-charging country-rock chorus with harmonica, a sproinging like a field recording of music made by and for a tribe of rubber bands, and lyrics referencing "interring corpses", "Mom is high" and "disobeying child". But of course, since when did I object to smart-alecks? And if you do object, then relax, enjoy the music, and don't think. It's such great music to not-think by."