BARLOW: IN A STRANGER'S CAR
Pittsburgh based Barlow’s July 2017 release, In A Stranger’s Car, a project they would go on to call their best yet, is being reissued. The album is a layered, hauntingly beautiful insight into a series of fever dreams told in an immediately captivating, immersive listening experience and is the culmination of work recorded on four track cassettes spanning from 2011 to 2017. The project is seeing fresh life through Crafted Sounds, an independent label out of PA. The new release features two new bonus tracks and seeing physical copies of “clear tapes with black webbing, manually labeled and dubbed with love.”
Barlow is the brainchild of Pittsburgh based, Ethan Oliva. In addition to eleven Barlow releases, Oliva also has a solo album called Dianetics that came out this February, and a brand new EP under the alias of Spaceman Spliff.
In A Stranger’s Car positions the listener similarly to the lone silhouette on the album’s cover: walking with a flashlight and discovering the boundaries of Oliva’s night terrors. Each track offers a new vignette to range from blissed-out ambience like, ‘Last night my dreams were blue rounds,’ to manic paranoia, ‘I don’t want to look your way. You’ve got a message for me. Stay the hell away.’ The album opens with “Tirebiter,” which introduces the dream imagery: ‘Now I dream however free in one piece. You said that you saw all three. Each one was calling to me.’ Oliva’s lyrics are reinforced by volume dynamics, which mark the thematic changes. In addition to loud/soft mechanics, there are a number of tonal surprises. Churning, new wave guitar riffs are juxtaposed with moments like the light, atmospheric vocal sections of “East Commons” and the playful, staccato of “You Have To See It.”
Two bonus tracks are placed at the end of the track list and work like an alternative narrative choice to the album rather than just two singles. “Time Man” was the last song on the original release and concluded the project on waves of full-bodied guitar soundscapes intersected by reflective finger picking. Instead, “Can’t Believe” picks up where “Time Man” ends with a base of synth, guitars very low in the mix, and a simple drum pattern, placing the focus on Oliva’s vocals. “Untitled 3” is reflective closure to a fantastic project and is satisfying in that way. It is a soft instrumental with some hummed vocalizing over top.
The project’s re-release is available now on Crafted Sounds’ Bandcamp page. Tapes are available, but the initial release is very limited. A second release has been teased though, so stay tuned. A new shirt design has recently been made available, and some shows are lined up for the next couple of months.