Sophie Barker
"Earthbound"

(Emperor 2006)Sophie Barker - Earthbound

Sophie Barker is best known in the music scene for singing and writing songs for the group Zero 7. She has only recently struck out on her own, and this second outing in her solo album releases is a mature and emotionally effective work. Her voice is smooth and mixes well with the atmospheric arrangements, which retain from song to song that New Age style that works so well in creating delicate and meditative trance music. You can hear her prominent English accent, which further creates a personal and sincere mood. The instrumental backing oscillates from spare -- when Barker's acoustic guitar is being emphasized -- to complex and synthesized. The melodies may take a while to really work on you and grab you, given that they have that ethereal quality that slowly evolves throughout the tunes. You will need to be patient, but the melodies do eventually make their point. Besides, if you get bored with her singing, you can always pay attention to the rhythm track, with its haunting, keyboard driven and electric surrealism.

"Wintertime" is the first tune that really has all the great elements of the entire album. Her voice wanders around the organ-augmented arrangement, while her acoustic is strummed along at a moderate pace that comes to a halt at brief sections to allow the organ to have its turn. "On My Way Home" has the most discernible melody, with its refrain that reminds one of something Joni Mitchell might write. "Start Me" is less a song than it's a tone poem that sketches intense conglomerations of electric guitars with synthesizers that seem to be doubling Barker's vocals when she really stretches them. "Angel" is a bit dull to my ears, though her triple tracked vocal is at least interesting, though the melody is buried underneath a nauseatingly slow rhythmic pace. "Stumble" is the song that's driven the most by her acoustic guitar, and the melody is bouncy enough to truly enlighten your mood a bit. Her voice really soars on the refrain too.

This album deserves some attention. It's perfect to listen to when you're taking nighttime walks and the stars are out. It's great cosmic mood music. So buy it.

B+

buy it!