November 17 2021
Before the release of the group’s debut album next month, Barbican Estate’s Kazuki Toneri details a few of the band’s most important and essential influences.
A towering grey labyrinth of sharp edges and bold curves, the Barbican Estate in London, built in the 1960s and ‘70s, was masterfully designed to be at the heights of both utility and style. Widely celebrated as a pinnacle of Brutalist architecture, it’s a harsh, gorgeous place.
In many ways, the music of the band Barbican Estate is rather like its namesake. Rooted in radical artistic values, it is both flamboyantly creative and direct, purposeful. It can be tonally cold and harsh but also feel intricate and well-crafted. It almost always, no matter its actual form, amounts to some kind of grand statement.
Barbican Estate’s music has felt like a refined and accomplished package ever since the group first started releasing singles, all the way back in 2019. Vintage equipment and Kazuki Toneri’s sitar give the band a psychedelic edge; Miri’s cavernous bass and lingering vocals add depth and a distinctly Sonic Youth-esque air; and Koh Hamada’s drums and percussion lift the group through whichever direction their sound decides to take. The band’s songs are often longform; prone to raucous noise and mind-melting electronics but also perfectly capable of serene, stripped-back acoustics.
Barbican Estate’s debut album Way Down East is out next month (Wednesday, December 22 – pre-save it on streaming services here). In the lead-up to that release, we caught up with the band’s guitarist and sitarist Kazuki Toneri. Here is a playlist of some of the key influences behind Barbican Estate and Way Down East.
He is an acid folk songwriter from the USA who I discovered in a record shop in Kyoto, and who has since had a huge influence on the musicianship of Barbican Estate. The warmth of his voice and the melody of his guitar are soothing – it’s perfect for listening to while reading a book on your day off.
The weight of the sitar and various stringed instruments – they have a terrifying beauty that could never be expressed digitally. I can't find out much more about this band, but it seems that they broke up in 2006. I wish I could have been there to see them live.
The Wicker Man is one of my favourite films. This is the soundtrack to the legendary cult movie, which was made in England in 1973. People are usually first drawn to the film's intense imagery and story, but I was foremostly moved by the light, flowing, unhurried music. The woman’s voice in this song has a folkish sound from the far reaches of pre-Roman Europe.
This is a live recording of ‘60s underground psychedelic band Ultimate Spinach. The band had a clear rivalry with Jefferson Airplane, but I feel that the Boston sound was on a very different cultural level to California. Live versions of the band's music are particularly enjoyable for their rough feedback, a sound which can be described as a precursor to Les Rallizes Dénudés.
Alice Coltrane has recently released some previously unreleased material, which shows the magic and power of her spirituality at work. An overtone ensemble of synthesized electronic sounds and Indian tampura, it is the culmination of her jazz background and Eastern spiritualism. It is as if she is meditating at the edges of India.
The first experimental music was created in the 1920s by the brothers Antonio and Luigi Russolo, two of the most important musicians of Italian Futurism. The corale, made up of various industrial machines and noises, was an avant-garde art form on the eve of the rise of Fascism, and a profound expression of the world at the time of the development of capitalism and industrialisation. Here was the origin and the ultimate form of all avant-garde music.
There’s a lot to debate when it comes to The Rolling Stones, but I love [Their] Satanic Majesties [Request]. I can’t even begin to describe the floating feeling that this song stirs in me. It’s largely due to Brian Jones’ mellotron – his psychedelic approach is timeless and wonderful. Also, the droning distorted guitar work of Keith Richards at 4:15 is euphoric enough to make you want to listen to “2000 Light Years From Home” forever.
I studied Roman History at university and am a huge Pink Floyd fan, so the combination of the two in this video is always great. When I went to Pompeii for my research, I spent a lot of time listening to Live at Pompeii, pondering and wandering around the ruins.