WE’VE been quietly adoring the erm, quietly very adorable work which Ted Barnes, the one-time Clayhill singer, who literally did run away and join the circus after that band broke up a decade and half ago now, has been dropping over past weeks in the run-up to the release of his first album in too long, 17 Postcards, which is out tomorrow.
Now, you may or may not have been blessed enough to have swooned for Clayhill, the cruelly underrated trio who got lumped into the semi-trendy genre ‘The New Acoustic’ by the music press alongside the likes of Lowgold and Kings of Convenience, but it’s never too late to redress that error; seek ye their albums; for further evidence of my assertions, check out the dark delicacy of “Hang On” from Clayhill’s 2006 swansong album, Mine At Last.
After Clayhill’s sad demise, and the trio – former Red Snapper bassist Ali Friend and dual singer-songwriters, ex-Sunhouse (and there’s another criminally underrated band) man Gavin Clark and Ted Barnes went their separate ways, Ted was involved with soundtracks, working with the acclaimed Dead Man’s Shoes/This Is England director Shane Meadows on a clutch of tunes for his 2008 film, Somers Town, and library music, among other projects.
It’s nigh on 13 years now since his last album proper, Portal Nou, after which Ted creatively diversified, into theatre, film, even contemporary circus and songwriting partnerships, working with Beth Orton for a decade.
“Leaving rock ‘n’ roll to join the circus was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Ted says, memorably and wryly.
In January we rather loved his first single drop from this forthcoming album, “Arrangements”, featuring the vocal talents of Sarah Johns Music Party, of which we said: “[It’s] a delicate waltz, part theme from the best late Sixties arthouse movie yet to be made, part Talulah Gosh/early Belle & Sebastian indie sweetness, wholly Ted’s singular fragility.”
Last month, and always open to a collaboration, loving the way the creative sparks fly and connect, he released “Way Beyond This”, a single featuring his Clayhill bandmate Gavin’s son, Michael, taking the spotlight on a song originally written for a scene in the Extraordinary Bodies’ film, What do you see in me?
And today, with the clock ticking towards tomorrow’s album, we’re premiering his third single, “Metal Man”, this time out featuring the honeyed voice of Brighton-based folk singer Kristin McClement.
The video for it is just down below; it’s a slow candlelit swoon in which Kristin yearns for the touch of some metaphorically part-man, part-machine creature, aloof, very much a song for a slow dusk. It comes suitably monochromed, visually.
Ted says: “I had become aware of Kristin’s songwriting and voice through collaborations on Ben Eshmade’s Artic Circle project and then fell in love with her debut album, The Wild Grips.
“The original song was written for a theatre piece with the circus company Extraordinary Bodies, but I became aware that I wanted to run with a different lyrical version. Thankfully Kristin was up for reworking it with me and helped in providing the tune with a whole new lease of life.
Robbie Robson, on trumpet, provided me with one of my favourite spontaneous bits of the whole album.
“The ‘Metal Man’ video was made for me by Nick Curtis and Sebastian Sharples. I went to art college with Nick when we were 16 and its taken this long to collaborate. He is an artist working in many different mediums but this is his first video. I’ve always appreciated his eye for things unusual and he is the king of coincidence.
“It was filmed in lockdown and Kristin was not able to feature in it; but thankfully Nick’s daughter Elodie took over on vocal duties and Nick was his own metal man.”
Ted Barnes feat. Kristin McClement’s “Metal Man” will be released as a download-only single this Friday, March 19th, and will available over at Ted’s Bandcamp page. It’s taken from Ted’s album, 17 Postcards, which is also out today digitally and on CD; you can order the CD from Ted’s Bandcamp, as above, or over at Rough Trade.