BArTc is London based experimental electronic audio visual artist Jason Barton, with his nom de plume comprising the symbols for three chemical elements – Boron (B), Argon (Ar) and Technetium (Tc) – while also giving nods to both Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and his own surname.
‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ is Barton’s debut album and contains fourteen highly atmospheric soundscapes. Taking the title from a line in a William Gibson novel that was also used in a citation about Sleeping Sickness (‘they neither conveyed nor felt the feeling of life; they were as insubstantial as ghosts, and as passive as zombies’), he comments that “I have always loved the phrase as for me it perfectly describes minimalist, other worldly dark ambience.”
Initially inspired by instrumental electronic records in his father’s record collection by titans such as Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre, Barton soon gravitated towards underground ‘industrial’ icons such as Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, Chris & Cosey and Skinny Puppy, as well as digging deeper into the work of early German electronicists such as Cluster, Musique concrète pioneers Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, plus the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Citing sound recordist (and Cabaret Voltaire co-founder) Chris Watson as another influence, adding that “I have always loved environmental sounds and often carry a field recorder on my travels which I use to create texture in my pieces.”
Further explaining his modus operandi, Barton explains: “I build layers to create something abstract yet strangely beautiful, mixing source material, organic and experimental sounds plus field recordings that are heavily distorted with various effects. For me, creating music is a form of meditation, and to lose oneself in an improvisation is a wonderful experience. I just need to remember to hit record!”
Having collected synthesisers and made music (both alone and with friends) for several years, Barton subsequently started the project Less Than One to create accompanying videos that he began posting on Instagram. Initially solely for his own work, he soon earned plaudits from a worldwide community of electronic artists that in turn has led to commissions from the likes of Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini.
Much of ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ was recorded in January 2021 while the UK was in lockdown. “I participated in an annual Instagram music making challenge, where artists post a short piece of music every day using the hashtag #jamuary2021. Recording my contributions at the same time every evening (22:23), I amassed many minutes of music and ideas. Some of these were expanded to become tracks for the album or inspired further recordings through the dark winter nights.”
ICR owner Colin Potter, himself a well known figure in the experimental genre as a member of Nurse With Wound and sound engineer, heard some of Barton’s work and offered to release it. He has handpicked several of the pieces included on ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ and also mastered the album.
INSUBSTANTIAL AS GHOSTS
3 MALLEUS INCUSS TAPES
5 A STRANGE GLOW AWAITS US ALL
6 ENERGY FIELD
7 THE SERAPH
8 THE ISOTOPES OF YTTRIUM
9 LOOKING INTO THE ABYSS
10 SOME OBSERVATIONS ON TECHNETIUM
11 ULTRA PANAVISION 70
14 THE ORGANISM