Barry Cleveland’s music encompasses a variety of styles from art rock and world fusion to ambient and experimental. His guitar work is enhanced by electronic processing, live looping, and unorthodox playing techniques.
Cleveland’s lifelong fascination with spacey guitar sounds stems from listening to his parents’ Les Paul records as a child. His earliest performance was at a junior high school “happening,” where he created psychedelic soundscapes with his amplifier’s reverb control maxed. Close encounters with a fuzz box and a tape-echo machine a few years later permanently altered his life’s trajectory.
While attending college, Cleveland played in various improvisational ensembles, followed by a year of touring the Southeastern U.S. with an 8-piece funk and soul band.
Cleveland’s first commercial album was released on Larry “Synergy” Fast’s Audion Recording Company label in 1986. Mythos is cinematic in scope, combining layers of guitar with woodwinds, synthesizers, percussion, and bowhammer cymbalom, as well as making extensive use of Terry Riley-style tape-looping. Voluntary Dreaming, released in 1989, encroached on world-fusion territory with its unique blend of guitar, electronics, African and Middle Eastern percussion, bowhammer cymbalom, and pedal-steel guitar.
During the ’90s, Cleveland was a member of the improvisational quintet Cloud Chamber, a group that included bassist Michael Manring, cellist Dan Reiter, percussionist Joe Venegoni, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Masley. Cloud Chamber performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for several years, and released the critically acclaimed Dark Matter in 1998. He also recorded material that would be released subsequently: Volcano (2003), which combined African and Afro-Haitian percussion rhythms with progressive, jazz, and ambient influences; and Memory & Imagination (2004), a 2-CD compilation of previous works that also included nine new live-looping-based compositions.
Hologramatron (Moonjune), released in 2010, spans a musical continuum from art rock to ambient to avant-metal to psych pop, and features a stellar lineup including bassist Michael Manring, drummer Celso Alberti, and pedal-steel guitarist Robert Powell, along with vocalist Amy X Neuburg and guest vocalists Harry Manx and Deborah Holland.
Cleveland was also an editor at Guitar Player magazine for 12 years and Mix and Electronic Musician previous to that; in addition to authoring the cult classic Joe Meek’s Bold Techniques, and contributing to Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin, the Illustrated History of the Heaviest Band of All Time. His blog, The Lodge, resides on this website.
Cleveland’s most recent release, Mu, is a collaboration with French guitarist Richard Pinhas, also featuring Michael Manring and Celso Alberti. Unfettered by genre conventions, Mu combines entirely improvised music with Cleveland’s post-production compositional development. The four pieces unfurl as a confluence of overlapping musical currents informed by art rock, ambient, electronic, avant-garde jazz, and various world music inflections.
Cleveland also composes for picture. His music has been featured on programs such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, CNN International Asia, CNN International Europe, Erin Burnett OutFront, Crime Watch Daily, and Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers.