Lead Into Gold
The Eternal Present
The reactivation of the Lead Into Gold project in 2018 with The Sun Behind the Sun found Paul Barker looking both forwards and backwards; some tracks hearkened back to the characteristic sampled and mechanized grooves he pioneered as a producer for Wax Trax and member of Ministry, while others took a murkier and much more fluid and strange path. New album The Eternal Present finds Barker forgoing the sound of yesteryear and pointing Lead Into Gold into that hazier, less defined direction. Revolving around his bass guitar tracks, crunchy analogue synth programming and own lilting voice, its an invigorating example of an artist redefining themselves, seemingly in real time.
Despite it being a very different record from basically anything Paul Barker has done in his long and illustrious career in industrial music as a producer and performer, The Eternal Present is not a complete departure so much as it is a reinvention of his familiar aesthetics. The cracking drum programming and bass guitar of “The Final Blows” is vintage Barker, but as the track progresses the gaps between each sound draw closer together, eventually acting as a pillar to hold up the increasing weight of synthesized noise piled on top of them. Elsewhere, Barker uses glitched and crushed synths to evoke emotion on the instrumental “Fugue (for BR)”, sounds that in the past he may have employed to shred through a mix adding texture and movement to the piece’s melancholic tune.
This is also the first time we’ve really gotten a proper read on Barker’s persona as a vocalist; most existing examples of him in the role have been workmanlike but largely unremarkable. The difference apparent on The Eternal Present is how much further up in the mix his voice appears, and in how well his gristly devlivery suits the material of the record. Via the application of effects and some clever mixing, he inhabits the songs without becoming lost in the waves of sound and layers of instrumentation, contributing or counterpointing as needed. On standout “She Lies Beyond” where the track is built around lower frequencies and sharp drum impacts, his flanged voice creates a melodic through-line and on the jazzy, improvisational “The Surface” his chopped syllables and dragged-out enunication create rhythms that play against the song’s insistent synth loop.
The themes of reconfiguration and revival that define the record musically are unmistakably present in the record’s lyrics, which act as an extension of Barker’s own interests in 20th century philosophy. While standing observing the moment in history he serves phrases that can be read as indictment or observation although refreshingly not as fatalistic defeatism. Indeed, there’s a sneaky sense of hope that wends its way through the LP; summarized neatly on “A Thousand Licks”: “Who’s to say the flames can’t get much higher/as they glow upon your face/as though we watch the infinite” he intones, accepting fire as destroyer and source of light, neither entirely evil or good. It’s a sentiment wholly appropriate to a record, which as its title suggests, is concerned with experiencing and embodying the artist not as a figure of the past but of the now, even as the future gives way to the past. Recommended.