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Anton Barbeau – Photo Credit: Julia Boorinakis Harper
Psychedelic singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau presents ‘Berliner Grotesk’, a strange and magical track off his new album by the same name. The Berliner Grotesk LP is the final installment in his Transfiguration Trilogy, following Magic Act (2016) and Natural Causes (2018). It is a tribute of sorts to his adopted city of Berlin. Leaning heavily on synthesizers and other keyboards, the record blends Barbeau’s distinctive quirk pop with charming dark cabaret.
Hailing from Sacramento and currently residing in Berlin, Barbeau is a prolific artist whose music is steeped in psych-rock and underground club-tronica. His work blends an unerring ear for melody with a zany eye for poetry. Best known for making “pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop”, for this particular album, we can also refer to European circus cabaret and crypto-confessional piano ballads with hints of old school New Wave and nu-skool nonsense.
Barbeau has made something like 20 albums and has worked with members of XTC, The Soft Boys, the Bevis Frond, Cake, the Loud Family, and Mystery Lawn label-mates the Corner Laughers. Earlier, he had a band Three Minute Tease with ex-Robyn Hitchcock cronies Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor. When in California, Barbeau plays with his band Kenny. He also writes for and produces albums for Allyson Seconds.
In addition, Barbeau is vocalist and lyricist for France-based collective Salt, whose debut album The Loneliness of Clouds was recorded at Abbey Road in London and Ferber in Paris, and produced by Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, R.E.M., and Big Star fame.
“This song, and much of the Berliner Grotesk album, seems to be about love, though there aren’t many actual love songs on the record. I did try, soon upon moving to Berlin, to write this kind of dirty cabaret waltz, but my first attempts were terrible and I dropped the idea for another 7 years. Oddly, this particular song emerged from a failed attempt at making the ugliest industrial track I could. My hands are too chord-seeking, and my brain always craves song structure. I guess a trick for me is to attempt one thing, fail, and do something completely else,” says Anton Barbeau.
The intriguing dark waltz that is ‘Berliner Grotesk’ comes to visual life in its accompanying cabaret-style video, created by Julia VBH and Anton Barbeau.
“We were trying for a Cabaret vibe, but with a touch of Judd-era Split Enz thrown in. It was filmed, probably ironically, in Auburn, California by Julia VBH and myself, with a few scraps of actual Berlin footage added for good measure! Our entire budget was spent on the $25 table cloth we used as red velvet curtains. We gathered some friends and someone yelled ‘action’ and this film was born,” says Barbeau.
“Our friends all fell naturally into their roles with zero rehearsal and minimal instruction. Everybody brought their own dress-up kits, and Alison brought Louie the Poodle as well. That’s my dad reading the newspaper, first time he’s been in an Ant video.”
The album Berliner Grotesk is being released via Beehive Records (US) and Pink Hedgehog (UK). It is available digitally everywhere now, including Apple Music, Spotify, and Bandcamp, as well as being made available on CD.
July 19 Grass Valley, CA – Wild Eye Pub (6:30-9:30 PM, $10-12)
Aug. 15 Auburn, CA – Auburn Co-Op (5-9 PM)
Aug. 23 Sacramento, CA – Old Ironsides
Aug. 25 Chicago, IL – Bucktown Arts Festival
Aug. 30 Sacramento, CA – Luna’s (with Allyson Seconds)
Sept 14 Burbank, CA – Joe’s Great American Bar and Grill
Nov. 15 Berlin, Germany – Madame Claude