(New Album Review) Matthew Barlow- Hatha

Keeping up with each season’s offerings from my favorite netlabels can be rough. Time and time again, Sean Conrad’s Inner Islands cassette imprint knocks ’em dead, with this year’s offerings from Conrad’s own project Channelers (three so far), my buddy Kyle Landstra, Inner Travels, Softest, and Stag Hare continuing a thread of ambient and kosmische albums that harken back to the New Age cassettes of the 80s in a way that feels sincere and intensely personal.  I want to take a second to backtrack to Inner Islands’ Spring batch, and a release from North Carolina-based musician Matthew Barlow.

Hatha was inspired by Barlow’s yoga practice. The tape is composed of two mellow pieces for flute over field recordings and softsynths, “Sun” and “Moon”– fitting, since a theoretical goal of yoga is to balance what are thought of as “lunar” and “solar” aspects of one’s body (the word “Hatha” has been intrepreted as a portmanteau of “Sun” and “Moon” in Sanskrit, though truthfully this is not the case). Barlow is an American guy of European ancestry devoted to a practice that originated in India, composing pieces for flute and synths that evoke vibes of Japanese shakuhachi and Native American plains flute for their emotive stillness. By this point in life, you’ve hopefully figured out that we’re all tapestries, in a way. And it’s something important to care for. This really is a lovely album– not an appropriation but a nod of respect, a fusion of all that has been learned for the sake of something calming and transportive. Check it out as soon you have a moment.

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