Review – Martyn Barker – Water & Stone

Martyn Barker is an English drummer, percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, best known as the drummer for Shriekback. He has also been a member of King Swamp and worked with many of the world’s best known and loved musicians. He currently has co-written and co-produced two records with songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Talitha Rise, as well as producing and drumming for acts worldwide.

Water & Stone‘ celebrates the miracle of water; its rhythm, its music, its journey, its myths, poetry & its beauty. The album contains wondrously spiritual folk-scapes created for television by Martyn in collaboration with Emily Burridge (cello), Nick Pynn (violin) and Astrid Williamson (vocals). 

I first got to know of Martyn through Jo Beth Young who recorded as Talitha Rise and he really is a consummate and extremely creative musician so, when he asked me if I’d be interested in a new collection of music he had written for television my answer was always going to be a resounding yes.

Despite the premise that the album was written specifically for TV, it can be taken as a singular recording in itself. There is a wonderful flow and spiritual feel to the music as it permeates your whole being one track after another.

To my ears this ethereal, wistful and contemplative release should be listened to in one sitting as each track tends to segue into the next and draws you in to its quite delightful web of beautiful music.

Oft plaintive and mournful and oft playful and nostalgic, it caused a welling of emotions in this weary listener and calmed my soul at a time when the world is a very strange place indeed.

Particular highlights for me are the wonderfully emotive The Selkie featuring Nick Pynn’s expressive violin playing, the sublime and divine Time and the Sea with Astrid Williamson’s dreamy vocals, the reflective splendour of the compelling Ocean of Prayers and the elegant charm of Calandra’s Dance where you first hear the rarefied brilliance of Emily Burridge’s cello.

Emily is an excellent foil for Martyn, collaborating on eight of the album’s thirteen tracks but it is the haunting grandeur of the music that stands out across the entirety of the recording.

You are unlikely to hear a release as graceful and spiritual as this at any point in 2020, it will move and delight you in equal measure.

Released 16/2/20

‘Water & Stone’ is available at Apple Music and from 7digital here:

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