Odds are that even if you don’t know who Derek Barber is, you’ve probably heard him before. A fixture in the Bay Area music scene, he plays guitar for Bells Atlas, Astronauts, etc., and Madeline Kenney’s live shows. As long as he has been playing in bands and supporting other artists, though, Barber has also maintained his own side project, Perhapsy, as an outlet for the experimental impulses that he cultivated in college days studying jazz at the University of Michigan. Starting as an all-instrumental rock artist, Perhapsy has shifted over the course of two albums into a moody, guitar-driven singer-songwriter.
In his new single, “Heavy Water (I'd Rather Be Sleeping),” Perhapsy continues that personal streak with a heartbreaking cover of a song by Grouper. With a backbone of a quick, steady acoustic picking pattern, the song foregrounds Barber’s gentle, vulnerable vocals. Doubled and sometimes lagging behind the steady instrumentals, the voice is raw and seems, as the lyrics say, as if it moves through water. You can sense the emotional weight dragging the singer.
Halfway through the quiet track, though, Perhapsy introduces a heavily distorted, grinding guitar, creating a build that ultimately feels more cathartic than it does weighty. The female vocals that sing the melody an octave up affirm this feeling, rising delicately above the fray. “Heavy Water,” off of Perhapsy’s forthcoming EP, THE, is good for Grouper fans, followers of the Bay Area music scene, or anyone in need of good winter listening.