Berliner Grotesk by Anton BarbeauRelease date: May 10, 2019
Label: Pink Hedgehog
Hailing from Sacramento via. Berlin, Anton Barbeau‘s final instalment in his Transfiguration Trilogy could easily have been written from the eye of the Uffington Horse itself. In essence, it’s a charming dark cabaret, which crosses into the realm of a new modern condition. Here, a Neo-Weimar school hall piano isn’t entirely apart from Brechtian trickery, and the sensibilities of the Threepenny Opera.
Tracks such as ‘Not the World’s Most Wave-Formed Man’ feature the generational trumpet that would be comfy-cosy on a Scott Walker B-Side. Others such as ‘I Been to Bromley’ (which makes a direct reference to Anton’s work with The Bevis Frond) and ‘Boxcat Blues’ have a tender wit that lets the heads know that this record is firmly within Julian Cope’s stone circle.
If you’re not familiar with Anton Barbeau, rest assured that he’s done some pretty cool stuff. A bibliography full of italics that goes something like ‘folk from XTC, The Soft Boys, the Loud Family, et al’. A body of work that seems to respect you as its recipient precisely because it makes no immediate claim on your base understanding. Instead, it cuts you some breathing space to apply whatever you get from it intuitively and sympathetically.
But, back to Berliner Grotesk. It’s smart, it’s catchy, it’s cool, it’s synth-peppered with transcendence, and it’s got some right-on beats and some good pacifistic left hooks. Charming, intriguing, wordy (see “Cain said to Abel put the sable on, and Abel said to Cain ‘I much prefer chiffon.'”). You know that red shape in Magritte’s The Banquet? This addition to your record collection has a similar resonance. Stick a red sphere in the woods and wonder if it’s an illusion.
Blackbird pie, sharp as a German leather whip. Nuance supports the abstraction upon which good cabaret depends. Said with a great deal of conviction – you’ll want to have a cup of tea with this one.