Barry Cleveland Spotlight

"Stars of Sayulita" from his CD Hologramatron
TGS Spotlight Player from June 10, 2010

Barry Cleveland's guitar playing is rooted in progressive and psychedelic rock, branching into ambient, experimental, funk, and various "world music" styles enhanced by cutting-edge electronics and unorthodox playing techniques. He's also a deft engineer and producer with an idiosyncratic and sometimes iconoclastic approach to recording and mixing.

Cleveland's early work was ambient and impressionistic, and his last recording explored instrumental world fusion but Hologramatron 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 fun with two early-'60s pop covers tossed in for kicks. Cleveland is all about sound from his guitar playing to his compositions to his production and it is the deeply layered, highly nuanced, and cutting-edge sonics that unify this wildly eclectic material.

Hologramatron features virtuoso bass innovator Michael Manring, drummer and percussionist Celso Alberti (Steve Winwood, Airto Moriera), and pedal-steel guitarist Robert Powell (Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne), along with "avant-cabaret" vocalist Amy X Neuburg, and guest vocalists Harry Manx and Deborah Holland (Animal Logic). Additional musicians include Turkish electro-acoustic guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu, percussionists Gino Robair and Rick Walker, and Michael Masley, a.k.a. the infamous "Artist General."

In addition to playing acoustic and electric 6- and 12-string guitars on Hologramatron, Cleveland utilized a prototype of the revolutionary Moog Guitar and both acoustic and electric GuitarViols hybrid bowed instruments tuned like a guitar along with myriad effects processors and alternative playing devices such as a Chinese erhu bow, Masley Bowhammers, and the Ebow.

Besides eight original songs there are two covers: Malvina Reynolds' anti-nuke anthem "What Have They Done to the Rain" and Joe Meek's iconic "Telstar." Bonus tracks include remixes by Evan Schiller ("Lake of Fire") and Forrest Fang ("Abandoned Mines"), as well as an alternate mix of "You'll Just Have to See It to Believe." Grammy Award-winning engineer John Cuniberti mastered the album.

Cleveland is also currently recording an ambient album called The History of Light with Michael Masley (a.k.a. Artist General) and hopes to begin recording an album with French guitarist/synthesist Richard Pinhas later this year.

Cleveland released his first commercial album on Larry Fast's 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 Option, Jazziz, the Stereo Review Compact Disc Buyer's Guide, and numerous other publications.

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 continues to serve as an associate editor. Cleveland's first book, Creative Music Production: Joe Meek's Bold Techniques, was published by MixBooks in the Fall of 2001.

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 Volcano and Memory & Imagination.

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

Visit Barry Cleveland's website at

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