Richard Barbieri announces new solo album for 2021

Richard Barbieri sitting on steps
(Image credit: Carl Glover)

Richard Barbieri will be releasing the follow-up to 2017’s Planets + Persona via Kscope on February 26, 2021. Although Under A Spell isn’t the album the former Japan keyboard player had planned to release, its creation was guided by the pandemic.

“I wrote and recorded it in my studio at home, with all this strangeness going on outside,” he reveals. “It became something completely different: this weird, self-contained dreamstate album.”

On Under A Spell, Barbieri was intent on capturing the atmospheres and moods that his disconnected brain was conjuring rather than slaving over arrangements and melodies. Flare, Serpentine, Sleep Will Find You and its companion piece-of-sorts Darkness Will Find You are sharply defined despite their dream-inspired genesis. He points to the evocative opening and closing tracks, Under A Spell and Lucid, as the keys that unlock the album. 

“Those two tracks have the whole meaning within them,” he says. “The first song, Under A Spell, is leading you down a path, moving into places where you’re not sure what’s going on. There are whispers in the background, spells being cast in a deserted wood. 

"The final track, Lucid, is the opposite. You’re in this comforting lucid dream, but then you're drifting further away from it, trying to come out of it. There are voices saying: ‘Wake up, wake up, come back alive...’”

The album also reconnects Barbieri with Marillion frontman Steve ‘H’ Hogarth, with whom he collaborated on 2012’s Not The Weapon But The Hand. He and Swedish singer Lisen Rylander Love (who co-wrote A Star Light) are among those providing background vocals to the mostly instrumental project.

The album’s title perfectly encapsulates the haunting, evocative world Barbieri has created. The skittering Clockwork and Sketch 6’s dub-inspired soundscape reflect the surreal state the planet has found itself in over recent months.

“I was having a lot of bizarre, recurring dreams that were hanging around after I woke up,” says Barbieri. “They were based around this woodland pathway, which is really summed up by the album cover – this surreal, deserted, Blair Witch Project type of environment. You’re going through these woods, heading towards this light, almost like you’re leaving life. That’s where the title Under A Spell came from – it was a feeling of not being totally in control. Almost as if your dreams are pointing you in directions that sometimes you can control and sometimes you can’t.”

Check out the trailer below.

Album tracklisting

1. Under A Spell [07:19]
2. Clockwork [02:33]
3. Flare 2 [08:51]
4. A Star Light [03:50]
5. Serpentine [06:22]
6. Sleep Will Find You [02:51]
7. Sketch 6 [06:30]
8. Darkness Will Find You [04:58]
9. Lucid [06:14]

Under A Spell album cover

(Image credit: Kscope)