Barry Cleveland | Stones of Precious Water

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Stones of Precious Water

by Barry Cleveland

The hauntingly beautiful ambient and deep-space tracks on Stones of Precious Water represent Cleveland’s first foray into multi-track recording, and capture the musical spirit of the early ’80s from his perspective.
Genre: New Age: Ambient
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  Song Share Time Download
1. No Expectations
4:47 $0.99
2. Beyond the Pale
2:50 $0.99
3. Indigo Runes
6:32 $0.99
4. Point Zero
2:48 $0.99
5. Amber Clouds (Passing)
1:46 $0.99
6. Fall in Rome
2:25 $0.99
7. Stones of Precious Water
5:24 $0.99
8. Blue Things
4:32 $0.99
9. Ascension
5:35 $0.99
10. Bombay Dawn
2:36 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Stones of Precious Water represented my first foray into multi-track recording, and partially captured the musical spirit of the time—at least from my perspective.

Serendipity played a big role in the creation of the music. The pieces either began purely as improvisations, or simple structures that served as springboards for improvisation. Several of the pieces feature Kat Epple and her late husband Bob Stohl (a.k.a. Emerald Web), who played flutes, synthesizers, and bells. We performed and recorded together frequently in the early and mid ’80s, and released a collaboration album entitled Aqua Regia. They are also both featured on my Mythos album.

The serendipitous, “rabbit-out-of-a-hat” creative approach taken on Stones of Precious Water also extended to the recording technology.

All of the music was recorded between 1981 and 1983 on a Tascam Portastudio. The Portastudio recorded four tracks to cassette tape and featured an onboard mixer with four microphone preamps, basic equalization, and an auxiliary effects send. But the Portastudio also had a Pitch Control that varied the tape speed dramatically, and if you recorded onto a cassette and then flipped it over the recorded tracks would play in reverse. For example, one might double the tape speed, record bowed guitar on two tracks, then return the tape speed to normal, causing the recorded tracks to play back an octave lower, at half speed, and be twice as long. Additionally, one might then flip the tape over so that the slowed-down tracks played in reverse, and record more guitars or other instruments onto the remaining two tracks. Or, beautifully symmetrical harmonies might be generated randomly by combining the same guitar part played back at half speed and regular speed. Techniques such as these utilized the recorder as a musical instrument, and pushed the very modest technology to its limits.

Listening to this music now makes me smile, as I am reminded of the joy and exhilaration I experienced while making it. Given the primitive recording technology, the audio quality is obviously less than audiophile—but thanks to the magic of modern sound restoration and mastering tools the music on Stones sounds better than ever. —Barry Cleveland


Barry Cleveland's music spans an intriguing range of styles—from ambient and experimental to world fusion to psychedelic and progressive rock. His guitar playing is enhanced by cutting-edge electronics and unorthodox playing techniques, and he has been involved with looping technology since the early 1980s. Cleveland is also a recording engineer and producer.

Cleveland released his first commercial album on Larry "Synergy" Fast's legendary Audion Recording Company label in 1986. Mythos combined layers of guitar with Bob Stohl and Kat Epple's woodwinds, synthesizers, and light percussion, and Michael Masley's otherworldly bowhammer cymbalom. The CD received glowing reviews in numerous publications—and was chosen as one of The 25 Best New Age Compact Discs in the Stereo Review 1987 Compact Disc Buyer's Guide (alongside such other “new age” albums as Dark Side of the Moon, Autobahn, and Dig It). A remastered digital edition of Mythos was released released in 2013.

“Unlike many electronic/space music recordings, the focal instruments here are guitars, not synthesizers. Cleveland gets a remarkable variety of sounds out of them, too. He avoids the extremes of ambient innocuousness as well as anarchic harshness, and leaves one looking forward to his next work.” — Option

“Cleveland himself does everything but play the guitar straight; he uses Ebow, violin bows, Thumbo, and the cymbalom's Bowhammer to elicit long droning chords from his instrument. Side two is a 19-minute Frippertronics loop, with flutes, bells, and cymbalom floating in and out. Very empyrean. —Electronic Musician

“The five hypnotic songs on Mythos engender a dreamy tranquility, yet remain interesting enough to hold your attention. Obscure ethnic instruments ground the guitar/synthesizer songs with an ancient earthiness.” Performance: 8 | Sound: 10 —CD Review

“Features free-floating contexts that are strong without being overbearing and beautiful without being cloying. The drones, spiraling arabesques, and eerie, electronic colorings in Mythos leave plenty of room for listeners to transcend themselves.” —Jazziz

Voluntary Dreaming, released on Scarlet Records in 1989, also met with critical acclaim. The music had an electronic edge—Cleveland played samplers and synths in addition to electric and acoustic guitars—but also encroached upon world music territory with the addition of Michael Pluznick's African and Middle Eastern percussion. Michael Masley's bowhammer cymbalom and Robert Powell's pedal-steel guitar added exotic harmonic and melodic touches.

In 1996, Cleveland embarked on a parallel career in journalism, writing dozens of articles and product reviews as an editor with Mix, Electronic Musician, and Onstage magazines. In mid-2002 he joined the staff of Guitar Player magazine, where he served as an associate editor until mid 2014. Cleveland's first book, Creative Music Production: Joe Meek's Bold Techniques, was published by MixBooks in the Fall of 2001. A revised Second Edition—with the shortened title Joe Meek's Bold Techniques—has been published both in a hardcover print version and as an eBook.

During the '90s Cleveland was also a member of the improvisational quintet Cloud Chamber, a group that included multi-instrumentalist Michael Masley, bassist Michael Manring, cellist Dan Reiter, and percussionist Joe Venegoni. Cloud Chamber performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area over a period of several years, and released its critically acclaimed Dark Matter CD (produced by Cleveland) in 1998. During this time Cleveland also recorded material that would eventually appear on his Volcano and Memory & Imagination albums.

Volcano is an explosive mixture of African and Afro-Haitian rhythms and progressive, jazz, ambient, and world music elements, featuring Michael Manring (bass), Michael Pluznick (percussion), Norbert Stachel (winds/reeds/EWI), Michael Masley (cymbalom/original instruments), and other artists.

The 2-CD Memory & Imagination features the very best of Voluntary Dreaming and Mythos on one disc, and nine loop-based improvisational guitar and percussion compositions performed almost entirely by Cleveland, on the other.

Cleveland's latest release, Hologramatron [MoonJune Records], pushes multiple musical envelopes simultaneously. Largely a response to contemporary social, political, and even spiritual realities, Hologramatron may be viewed as a modern-day "protest album" that draws inspiration from a musical continuum spanning art rock, psychedelia, avant-metal, ambient, global fusion, trance, and funk—with two early-'60s pop covers tossed in for kicks. It features hyper-bassist Michael Manring, drummer and percussionist Celso Alberti, and pedal-steel guitarist Robert Powell, along with "avant-cabaret" vocalist Amy X Neuburg, guest vocalists Harry Manx and Deborah Holland, and other luminaries. Grammy Award-winning engineer John Cuniberti mastered the album, which has received more than 50 favorable reviews worldwide.

Cleveland and French guitarist Richard Pinhas performed a series of shows together and recorded the core tracks for an album in September 2013. The recording—due for release in 2016—features the guitarists performing both as a duo and as a quartet with Michael Manring and Celso Alberti.

Cleveland also composes music for film and television. Most recently, two of his compositions were included in OutFront with Erin Burnett on CNN.



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