Barbarossa is the moniker of James Mathe’s indie-electronic project, a solo act with the exception of occasional drum-set accompaniment. Mathe’s mantra of “less is more, quiet is loud” recalls bands like The xx and Washed Out. With his dense yet minimal arrangements, Barbarossa successfully averts the predictability or monotony that can plague similarly uber-mellow artists. Barbarossa’s intriguing, full-sounding instrumentation becomes even more engrossing when the artist contributes his virtuosic vocal talents to the mix. Mathe’s intensely expressive set left him and Junip with an engaged audience.Junip’s leader is José González, one of the most skilled and creative singer-songwriters in the new school of indie folk. The composition of Junip's material bears many elements of mastery found in González's solo work, with a larger instrumental arsenal allowing him to delve into more complex and energetic territory. González’s classical guitar is intermittently audible among the dominant presence of the five-piece rock band supporting him. Still, his voice's distinctively beckoning timbre is never overshadowed. The singer's humble poise gels with his cohorts’ instrumental backing in a happy middle ground between folk sensibilities and dense Northern European psychedelia. By and large, Junip were at their best when performing material from their new self-titled LP, released earlier this year, and the songs sounded spontaneous and free-flowing in a live setting. On cuts like “Your Life Your Call” and “Villain,” each individual’s contribution has a distinct presence, be it fuzzy bass guitar, synth-organ solos or auxiliary percussion.
Photos by Jordan Wallis