Barem: After the Storm

Mauricio Barembuem must have been a drummer in a previous lifetime, so pronounced is the percussive dimension on the Argentinian producer's debut Barem album, After the Storm. Barembuem's been prepping for the full-length since 2005, when he began releasing records on labels such as unfoundsound, foundsound, Pariter (a sub-label of Sushitech), Phonocult, and Minus, with Kolimar and Blue (the album's lead-in) issued on the latter. With the exception of the beatless prelude “There,” a minute-long reverie of vocal emissions, After The Storm is an album-long exercise in heavily percussive-based rhythming. Barembuem typically anchors a given track with an unwavering bass pattern and core beat pattern (often claps accompanying hi-hats, cymbals, snares, and kick drums) and then builds upon it by surrounding it with a constant flow of percussive invention and contrast. The listener is dizzied by such an uninterrupted bombardment of stimulation and consequently never disengages from the material, despite its percussive focus.

“Is” is representative of Barem's approach on the album in the way it peppers a rock-steady groove with an ongoing array of bongos and timbale-like drums. Wordless vocals, claps, and a thudding bass pulse bring additional spice to a track that's already rich in detail, and the listener's attention remains engaged throughout by the never-ending series of twists and turns. “Nothing” likewise extends far beyond its funky base level in draping across it an unpredictable and ever-grooving flow of snare fills; in truth, the track's core groove is steamy enough to keep one listening all by itself, but the added percussive punctuation only makes “Nothing” all the more enticing. Elsewhere, “Better” digs into a tight, dub-inflected house swing, while “Than” finds Barem working up a strong stepping house groove. That Barembuem is a skilful arranger is also shown in the artful way he alternates between synth, vocal, and cymbal accents during the latter track. 

The album's ten titles, incidentally, form the statement “There is nothing better than a clear blue sky after the storm,” a sentiment that could be interpreted literally or as a general comment on the serenity that the re-instatement of order following chaos brings about. Perhaps it's some cryptic allusion to the difficulties involved in bringing a full-length project to fruition and the sense of calm and satisfaction that comes as a reward thereafter. If there's a weakness, it's that by the time the album reaches its penultimate track, “Blue,” the sixty-five-minute recording starts to sound like it's revisiting familiar ground and thus might have been better whittled down to eight tracks from ten. Even so, After The Storm impresses as a strong debut collection and one that effortlessly transcends any tiresome associations to Minus's supposed minimal techno focus.

September 2011