Track By Track: Barbie Bertisch – Prelude
Barbie Bertisch takes great strides towards her ambition and realisation as an artist with the release of her debut album.
New York musician Barbie Bertisch has released her debut album today via Love Injection Records. It’s been described as a pinnacle moment in her career as she comes to the realisation of her own capacity and integrity as an artist.
This is a theme which Barbie has struggled with across many years reflecting on the situational and societal pressures which have lead her to this point:
“I felt like I was surrounded by men who ruled every space. I constantly felt like I had to ask permission to enter, always around bands but never the girl in the band”
Barbie runs Love Injection Records alongside her partner Paul Raffaele, the pair have worked tirelessly on the project releasing music and producing magazines documenting underground music culture in New York and beyond.
This album is the next step in her journey and we invited her to talk us through the process and identity behind each track on what is a beautiful record.
“28”, the opening track, refers to a pivotal year in my life. It was the first time I felt like I understood what it meant to take responsibility for myself and what I was going through at that time, which was quite a lot. This was shortly after I started DJing, I was dealing with a lot of insecurities in various aspects of my life. Instead of being kind to myself and letting myself make mistakes, I was very judgemental, holding myself to unrealistic standards which resulted in a lot of anxiety. The softness of this song marks one of the first times I was able to give myself to vulnerability, to peel away at hardness and reveal what tenderness lies inside.
“Woman of Contrasts” actually had vocals but I scrapped them last minute because I hated them. They spoke of the duality of everyday pursuits, that which we want today but is no longer of interest tomorrow. Musically, the arpeggio is mechanical, rhythmic, while swelling and contracting, much like breathing. Since the lyrics and vocals were the last elements to come into fruition, I felt like I was in a place of just wanting to add more and more, and I was glad to realize that I could edit myself and actually say, “no, I don’t think this sounds good, you should probably step away and come back with fresh ears”.
"Lessons don’t come without falling on your ass a few times, going through hardship and suddenly realising you’re on the other side."
“Water Moves Slowly” is of a place of peace or a sense of womb-like movement that is slow and feels like a warm hug when we’re feeling down. It’s a mantra, maybe. Something to turn back to for comfort, like remembering that amidst choppy tides, the swells eventually calm down and move slowly again. There’s a friendliness or even playfulness to the toms here, and I put a lot of emphasis on where each element of the song lives on the sonic spectrum… I hope that comes through. There are folks that do this very beautifully but someone I can think of as inspiration is Francois K.
“Spirits Lifted” came from feeling a respite in the turbulence I was going through at the time. Lessons don’t come without falling on your ass a few times, going through hardship and suddenly realising you’re on the other side. It has a tinge of hope, dare I say. I was listening and learning a lot about when Sly and Robbie began to use drum machines in their productions, so I think some of the drum pattern may have been inspired by what I was hearing at the time. I tried to give it a lot of space and use echoes in ways that feel interesting to me.
“I Thought This Would Be Easier” quite literally is in reference to me learning to make music and to consider myself an artist, with all the second-guessing and the thinking of yourself as insane for even trying.
“Is This What You Wanted” and “Warm In The Dark” are both full of anger, which is something I never allowed myself to feel; one is anger towards someone and the other is more about embracing the emotion and being ok with it. It’s very dueling bass-lines type energy, using the Novation Bass Station II that Paul had brought with him when he moved in. There’s the bass guitar, which is my main instrument. There’s a lot of just messing around and making wild sounds and building the track layer by layer, with textured arpeggios sort of touching… like a relay race, when one lets go, the other one begins.
“After The Storm” came together immediately after I had a panic attack, which I’ve been having for as long as I can remember and what drove me to look for help to begin with. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the symptoms, but mine were immediately followed by a huge sense of relief and that’s how that came together.
“Fertile Garden” and “Taking My Time” are the two more joyous tracks in the album, helping me chart a path to the future that felt more sustainable, at ease, and ripe for harvesting more of the good stuff that allows us to thrive in this insane world we’re in.
Overall, some of these songs remind me of people, most of them remind me of the many iterations that my apartment has gone through, since they were all made at home. I don’t have a big studio or anything like that. I think that I just had a bass guitar, a Bass Station II, an alto sax, and a microphone. I banged on the table, creating drum sounds I needed instead of sourcing samples. Things like that. I remember thinking to myself that I’d never look back on these and self-sabotaging. I had moved on from them and had started working on another album with a friend when March of 2020 arrived and I was stuck at home writing lyrics for that when I realized I had unfinished business. My mind kicked into completion gear and I sat there, diligently putting the pieces together and it turned out that it all made sense as a whole—or at least to me.