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Barry Black was not a man, but the name of a largely instrumental side project for Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann. In contrast to the Archers' angular, noisy indie rock, Barry Black was an eclectic, ramshackle faux-jazz chamber group, put across by inventive arrangements that suggested Bachmann's untapped talent for writing film scores. Bachmann had been a saxophone performance major at Appalachian State University before transferring to the University of North Carolina and switching to English. At UNC, in 1991, he co-founded the Archers of Loaf, who became college-radio darlings two years later with the release of their debut album, Icky Mettle. Meanwhile, Bachmann started Barry Black along with producer (and roommate) Caleb Southern, treating it as an informal home-recording project involving various other musicians and scenesters from around the Archers' home base of Chapel Hill. The sessions were loose and spontaneous, involving strings, brass, and found-sound percussion; for his part, Bachmann played a variety of instruments, including guitar, saxophone, organ, Moog, banjo, clarinet, and drums. Notable contributors included Chapel Hill's own Ben Folds on piano, plus local club owner Frank Heath on vocals, percussionist Chris Wabich, fiddler Bill Hicks (Red Clay Ramblers), and trumpet-playing brothers Chris and Jim Clodfelter (of Geezer Lake). Drawing from jazz, folk, pop, world music, and modern classical, these recordings were released by the Archers' label, Alias, in 1995 as the album Barry Black, on the heels of the Archers' sophomore effort, Vee Vee. Barry Black received generally positive reviews for its odd combinations of sounds and off-the-cuff charm, and Bachmann kept the project going in between Archers commitments. A second Barry Black album, the more instrumental Tragic Animal Stories, appeared in 1997. The Archers of Loaf disbanded the following year, and Bachmann started a new group called Crooked Fingers; hoping to get actual film-scoring work, he also retired the Barry Black name as an outlet for his instrumental music, and reverted to his own. The move paid off with his first solo album, 2002's Short Careers, a score for the indie film Ball of Wax.
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