Best of CMJ: Barnwave

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The rest of this week is going to have a tough time producing anything to match the utter entertaining bizarrity of Barnwave. Since her time in BfB, Kevin Blechdom (Kristin Erickson) has built a long resume of inventively crazed electronic pop from general MIDI musicals to a memorable “I Will Always Love You” cover that increased continuously in pitch. Barnwave sees her melodramatic showtune piano skills and surprising vocal talent matched by Christopher Fleeger on a skeletal electronic percussion kit consisting of pads (loaded with everything from metal guitar stabs, to shrieking feedback, to actual percussion) and some kind of drumless kick apparatus, playing a sort of industrial country cabaret. Individual songs ranged from deranged harangues with heavy voice warping effects to Minogue-esque dance interludes, from uplifting calls to “Believe the Children” to a cover of Cowboy Troy's “I Play Chicken With the Train”. Two things made this ramshackle mess work.

1. Erickson's absolute self-assurance, carrying every latest absurdity forward with deadpan conviction. Even the couple brief equipment malfunctions or mistakes seemed scripted into the set, rather tha actual problems. Maybe they were scripted into the set.

2. The fact that under all that showmanship and excess, these were very sharp electronic experimentalists with some serious chops. They've just decided to use them for fun. Further ambiance added by the attendee in the dress she described as “barnwave chic”. And it was.