Mick Barr

04 June 2012

I first heard of Mick Barr (and Orthrelm drummer Josh Blair) in a short lived music mag called Sound Collector. The description mentioned a guitarist who played ‘like yngwie malmsteen receiving transmissions fom Venus through his teeth.’ Yes! It took a little while (the internet was still getting its sh!t together and no one seemed to have a copy of his stuff to share) but i tracked down Iorxhscimtor by Orthrelm.

I hit play, and a brick hit me in face: it was music couched in metal but chanelling Stellar Regions-era Coltrane. Two insects playing the same thing on drum set and guitar, sharing the same brain. One of those moments where you think ‘will anyone ever listen to this with me?’ The energy does not let up on these recordings.

Somewhere along the way, there was a drastic change in mood, and the last Orthrelm recording, OV on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, is more Steve Reich than the speed surgery of the earlier records. It was a sign of things to come…

I hit Amoeba in San Francisco shortly after hearing about them, and find a copy of Ocrilim’s (then) new album Anoint.

Orthrelm felt outside, this feels like home. The spastic focused duo is now just the guitarist, overdubbing himself maybe… 7 layers deep? The frenetic grace in the Orthrelm pieces is now, relatively speaking, a sustained OM. Lines still continue without repeat, but theres a flow to it that makes me think of noh theatre or darker japanese and vietnamese folk music.

Mick’s drawings appearing on each album are a personal notation of sorts, though more guideline than literal if i understand what he says in John Zorn’s Arcana 2 correctly. He’s one of those musicians, for me, who make me censor myself less. I’m always excited to hear the next thing he puts out. I was really psyched to score vinyl of the 3-lp Purging Trilogy recently – it’s awesome: