Minnesota born and Florida raised, Breanna Barbara has created a psychedelic Western with Mirage Dreams. Each song plays like a showdown of Wild West stories passed down from generations. Enter the musky, muffled bar room of Barbara’s travels and get a treat into the insight of an outlaw of music.
Breanna Barbara Blows Past Tumbleweeds
“Sailin’ Sailin’” swings the saloon doors of Mirage Dreams open with a cowboy boot buckle sound. With a raw rock meets country sound and punk roots under a folky overlay, Breanna Barbara bends various musical genres into its own motorcycle music. Barbara’s yodel-like singing and the Doors-like keyboard accent the intensity of the electric guitar’s reverb, elevating the rhythmic energy of the drums.
Like rolling the tape of a cassette backwards with your index to repeat your favorite song, “Who Are You” rewinds in with a stripped sound. Breanna Barbara howls her old-fashioned vocals, bordering on garage punk phrasings, and a laid-back pedal steel rhythm. Barbara’s wailing raspy vocals filtered over train-car drumming and keyboard excitement blends rapidly into a carousel collapse.
“The Race” steps in like a Mexican standoff, with a Western tempo and spurring percussion. “Somewhere in the middle / between black and white,” the instruments and background vocals converge into a phantom chorus and a ghoulish beat; a festival of freaks, a carnival loop for the undead. And a comedic cartoon energy emerges at the end, like an early Looney Tunes cartoon, a scene of a duck falling down repeatedly and slipping.
A saloon swaying, reminding me of a David Lynch dream sequence, creates the mood for “Baby Where You Are.” The drums and bass create a circular rhythm of brushing and thumping, respectively, and the keys play down the scale in a cartoon sliding style.
Lower, intimate vocals are filtered in a far-away echo and an organ eeriness and whistling in the background adds to this creepy-comedy of sound; a sort of smoky brightness in tone, a checkerboard daydream sound. A hallucination of staggered singing with a drowsy beat and chord progression: a drunkard’s lullaby.
A tough guitar with an intermittent metal ping opens “Mirage Dreams.” Strumming in a repetitious frequency, the guitar generates a heat wave of sound, a brain melting and mind-tripping sound.
As Breanna Barbara yowls over the rough and tumble beats in a bon-fire freedom, louder and louder, the mirage erupts into a nervous breakdown, like a ’70s psychedelic ballad, or like Grace Slick’s infamous drunk performance in Vegas when she still fronted Jefferson Airplane.
Featuring a folky rhythm, fingerpicking guitar line, and desert echoes lingering notes in a deep midnight sky, “I’m Alright” plays with the way sound travels.
With a hazy dreamy surf guitar streamline and a yodeling outcry, “Nothin’ But Your Lovin’” has a discordant synergy, a thick psychedelic sound of bluesy folky punk vocals, like a forest siren. “Go Back” has a more deserted dry dusty sound, an outlaw’s song; running on a trail, galloping “back to your horse in Texas” with a gun in your holster and an enemy at your heels.
Toying with the dimension of dynamics, cymbals chime like an airplane flying above and overhead, and Barbara’s vocals bounce off the sound walls of space, orbing over a fullness of sound quieting down into distilledness.
“Daddy Dear” creates an illusion with a warped guitar and warbling pedal steel portraying an abstract vision. With a melodic pattern, like the closing of a legend’s tale being sung around a campfire, the tale of a Western outlaw that time had forgotten, “Wood Demon” closes the back cover of Mirage Dreams.
We wave goodbye to the long lost traveler as she trots on her horse into the cactus sunset.