BARA HARI – Pandora’s Box (2020)

Bara Hari (aka Samantha Franco) is an electronic producer/vocalist from Los Angeles, California. She’s a rather new addition to the electronic music scene, but don’t hold that against her because Franco’s talent is undeniable. Her first EP is entitled “Pandora’s Box” and it came out on June 19th, 2020.

The cover artwork is quite nice. The color choices here are also solid and subtle. I particularly like the faux shrink wrap along the edges of the image, it gives this a real tangible feel despite the fact that there isn’t a physical release of “Pandora’s Box”—yet. Trey Wellerman and Sam Franco’s design here is great because it tells everything there is about the release by including Bara’s logo, a couple of images, the tracklisting, and of course, a stunning photograph of Samantha.

I’m not entirely sure to what extent Samantha Franco played in the production process of this EP. It’s clear that she performs the vocals for “Pandora’s Box.” What’s confusing is that there’s also a producer credit for someone named Ian Flux. This leads me to believe that this EP was largely a collaborative effort. Which for how polished it is would make sense. If I had to guess, I think that Franco first wrote the music for “Pandora’s Box” via DAW, and then outsourced the mixing process to Flux and mastering to Lee McCartney. Regardless of how this all got done, this is a great little EP. It’s top-tier and succinct. To me, this is the embodiment of Darkpop near-perfection. That said, without Franco’s vocal performance it wouldn’t be what it is. Don’t get me wrong, the music is fantastic on it’s own, but it’s significantly strengthened by the presence of her magnetic voice.

The lyrical themes on “Pandora’s Box” delve into the subject matter common to Gothic types of music. Franco frequently takes dark images and uses them to create a space where she can express sometimes romantic interpersonal angst via song. At times, her lyricisms remind me of a poppy Miranda Sex Garden just with much more cutting. See this excerpt from Bara Hari’s “Dark Water”:

“I dragged you down with me/So deep we could no longer see/Ourselves in our reflections/At the bottom of the sea Murky as the water/Pooling at our feet/The tide has come/The current cuts/And it pulled you away from me.”

The theme of cutting, or rather separation seems to be the primary theme of “Pandora’s Box.” Separation from the people that we thought we loved, separation from the past, and separation from the things that hold us back. On the surface, it may seem that Franco’s lyrics only focus on relationship problems, but really they are more about liberation. Which, to me, shows that there’s definitely something more going on up underneath the surface of this EP than meets the eye.

“Carving Flesh” was one of my favorite tracks from “Pandora’s Box.” The opening reminded me of something you might hear on an early Lady Gaga album, but it quickly turned into something much darker. Franco’s vocals are remarkable on this track not just because they are clear, but because they change the context of the music by becoming an instrument in their own right. The best song on the EP goes to “White Noise.” I feel like the lyrical content of this track is very relevant in the post-Covid world. The track discusses what it means to be separated from other people, whilst also being trapped within the prison of the mind. When she mentions “Pandora’s Box” in this song I get the picture that it serves as an allegory for the chaotic space of Internet:

“Listen to the white noise/Coming from Pandora’s box/Taken by the embrace of the past/Transient attraction/Of everything that used to be/Has lost its charm but won’t let go of me.”

Overall, this is an explosive debut for Bara Hari. Had this been a full-length LP, it would be right up there with Collide’s “Chasing the Ghost.” It’s that good. I honestly can’t wait to see where she takes this project—because it is just dripping with potential.

And real talk, if there’s anyone out there in the void from Paradox Interactive, you need to get Bara Hari’s music into “Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2.” This is the type of music made for that kind of atmosphere.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like to cry dance.

Stand-Out Tracks: I absolutely loved every song on “Pandora’s Box,” but if I had to choose, please check out “Carving Flesh,” “White Noise,” and “Dark Water” first.

Album Color Profile: #F8BBD0

You can find all things BARA HARI at https://barahari.bandcamp.com

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