CD Review

Barr, Summary (5RC)

I doubt Brendan Fowler (Barr) was aware during the writing of Summary that the record would be one of his label's final releases; nevertheless, it's an uncannily appropriate last chapter to the 5RC story. First, it's very dark, which is fine—I see no cause to celebrate the end of one of my favorite labels. Second, the record is a welcome digression from typical Barr content: more moving than motivational, more powerful than preachy. It's by far his best effort to date.

Not to disparage the rest of the Barr discography, but another moralistic diatribe of "get out there and make art and be hip" would have turned me off. On Summary, Barr's basic foundation—frank, awkward-but-intensely-self-aware conversation put to a super-basic lineup that doesn't stray far from piano, drums and bass—is still there. The general aesthetic, too, remains dynamic, strange and engaging. But by the end of the first song, we've been specifically told the record will be "darker and meaner." By the end of the second track, "The Song is the Single," we learn that Fowler has just gone through an "Armageddon breakup," and despite the track's bouncy feel, it's not difficult to sense the mood only going down from here. We've been warned twice.

Refer now to "Complete Consumption of Us Both," one of the darkest songs on the album. Backed by one constant beat, played on the same drum, Fowler's voice stations itself in a weird void between whispering, ranting and crying, disassembling the aforementioned breakup under intense examination. It's immensely moving, as is the last track, "Context Ender." Here, the music steadily grows as Fowler's sentences begin to get quicker; it's easy to get lost in what he's saying until the song cuts out and the last line, which is my only memory of the song, echoes: "and the summary stands."

I don't know what Fowler will do now that 5RC is folding—maybe he'll move on to Kill Rock Stars, 5RC's parent label. Still, it's likely Summarywill be noted as a perfect obituary: an obituary for a label, and thus an obituary for an era; moreover, an obituary for a relationship, and thus an obituary for a big chapter of Fowler's own life. (Harry Kellerman)

 
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