MATTHEW BARLOW “Hatha” C30 (Inner Islands)

Billy Corgan addressed a song “For Martha” at the back end of 1998’s criminally underrated (says me) Adore, which many (read, me and my friend John) hoped would kick off a long and exciting string of sets closed with said song, replacing the still-always-appreciated “Silverfuck” as the encore. Who knows if that ever happened. What I do know is that Billy Corgan has nothing in common with the mantra, “Just being, without striving. A place of stillness.” Matthew Barlow, releaser of cassettes and sampler of nature, has stated this as his theme for Hatha, his tranquil new tape for Inner Islands. Matthew has dedicated this tape “For Martha,” and thus a tenuous connection was conceived. Matthew’s Martha is likely not the same as Billy’s Martha, the fact snapping the narrative thread like a rubber band stretched waaaay beyond its safe point of stretching. See, Matthew and Billy have nothing in common, and I think we’d like to keep it that way – while Matthew points us all toward a path of personal betterment, Billy’s mouth fills up like the toilet it is and spills over onto public consciousness, sowing toxicity wherever he appears. I’d rhetorically ask whatever happened to poor ol’ Billy, but we all know he’s always been a douchebag, good records notwithstanding. That’s why I’m gonna follow Matthew on this one.

And as soon as I do, I’m halted by the trance of Hatha. Two sides, one “Sun,” the other “Moon,” each manifesting fifteen minutes of that time of day in the form of sheer musical gorgeosity. “Sun” features samples of birds twittering away, while “Moon” casts the nighttime crickets and frogs as its main players. Barlow adds sparse synth texture, but his true element is the flute, which he plays longingly over the tracks’ foundation. It’s haunting and otherworldly, yet familiar, a reminder of the Earth itself (minus the humans) and the passage of time. It’s about “just being, without striving,” and as a “place of stillness” it succeeds magnificently. It’s new New Age, and Hatha’s ambient heart beats slowly and methodically, gradually revealing the secrets of your current moment. All you gotta do is let it work its magic, and you’ll be transported somewhere else entirely. And while it’s likely the kind of music that would play in the background of high-end tea houses everywhere (looking at you again, Billy), it needs its space, to be out in the open and breathing in and out. That’s right, this tape is a living thing – hook it up to an EKG machine at your local hospital and see if you don’t get a pulse. Then run as fast as you can, because they need those EKG machines for much more important matters.

--Ryan Masteller