Gradients of Bliss
Models of Wellbeing
Die-Hards of the Darwinian Order
Sam Barker is a resident DJ at Berghain, Berlin’s celebrated temple of techno, and as one half of the duo Barker & Baumecker, he has crafted plenty of hard-hitting tracks perfectly calibrated for the club’s cavernous post-industrial interior. On his debut solo album, though, Barker takes a different tack, excising the drums and other outward attributes of conventional techno until all that’s left is a billowing swirl of richly colored synths. Yet for all the music’s resemblance to the ambient techno of the mid-’90s, Utility isn’t really ambient music, save for the ethereal “Wireheading” and the downbeat closer “Die-Hards of the Darwinian Order.” Pulsing and flickering, filled up with pumping chords reminiscent of the Chain Reaction label’s dubby drift, the end result is a kind of techno by another means, where all the hard surfaces have melted away. Like rushing floodwaters, it carries real force beneath its fluid exterior.