LET’S welcome to the grand pantheon of recorded music a debuting (at least solo) songwriter and a new label: firstly Barnaby Keen, who has, on the evidence of “Lay Our Cards”, a nicely whimsical take on the psych-pop troubadour form, taking some of the quirky delirium of the post-Carnaby Street comedown vibe and giving a nicely 21st-century melodic twist – you can watch the lyric video for that down below.
It’s the first release on a new South London label, Plum Cuts, recently set up by producer Oli Barton-Wood, who’s worked with the likes of Porridge Radio and Nilüfer Yanya.
The story is that, playing around with a phone app to create soundscapes, Barnaby and his brother Nathaniel were inspired to revive an old song of Barnaby’s he had written over a bagpipe-like drone.
“I find it gets me into an imaginative place where melodies flow easily,” Barnaby explains.
QLike you’re staring at a flat ocean and then waves start appearing. You can hear the drone or pedal through all of the verses – it gives a kind of tension where the harmony is changing around it while it stays rooted.”
The same tension, that sustain and release informs the lyrics, too: using metaphors to allude to a situation or relationship under strain, until the opening chord of the chorus alleviates the tension with the saving motif: let’s lay our cards down.
Barnaby hails from Dorset but has been based in the southside of the capital for a decade now; his musical tastes and chops roam freely across the landscape of genres, having been a founding member of Moroccan electronic gnawa band Electric Jalaba, who landed a deal with STRUT Records; fronting dub-influenced indie outfit Flying Ibex.
He’s also a keen fan and purveyor of Latin American music, singing in Portuguese on the acclaimed collaborative LP 1986 with Portuguese songwriter Benjamim.
Label head honcho Oli has been helping Barnaby finish productions intermittently over the last few years, so the new label was the perfect place to launch out on his own.
“Knowing that I’m sitting on lots of unreleased music, he decided to give me a kick up the arse to get it out,” Barnaby says.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of different musical projects over the past few years,” he adds, ‘so releasing my own songs kept being pushed to one side until now.”