Caterina Barbieri Credit: Jim Nedd

The cover of Caterina Barbieri’s 2019 album Ecstatic Computation (Editions Mego) is composed of two eyes digitally layered over a photo of grayish fog. Its retrofuturistic aura is an apt representation of the Italian composer’s music and what she strives to accomplish through it. Drawing largely upon the works of German musicians such as Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, Barbieri uses modular synthesizers to explore perception and memory. Her contemporary take on progressive electronic music sometimes resembles that of local ambient musician Steve Hauschildt. The buoyant synth arpeggios of “Fantas” are suffused with drama, while “Spine of Desire” creates emotional tension with prickly melodies and a spaciousness that’s reminiscent of the pointillistic trance pieces pioneered by Italian producer Lorenzo Senni. Though Barbieri’s music can be inviting, some of her soundscapes burst with chaos: on “Closest Approach to Your Orbit,” a whirlwind of cacophonous sounds swirls around resplendent synth melodies. Ultimately, Barbieri’s goal with Ecstatic Computation seems to be to induce a state of ecstasy and contemplation. Her pattern-based synth work is hypnotic, and her thoughtful approach to sound design on tracks such as “Arrows of Time” (primarily composed of processed vocals) is enthralling. This performance at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall will be her first time using multichannel audio, which will allow for a more layered and immersive experience—and her mesmerizing music should be further enhanced by the room’s impressive natural reverb.   v