By Jordan Mooney.
An acoustic EP is often a very complex little thing, for all of the simplicity you may find in the arrangements and numbers behind it – an acoustic guitar is a masterful little instrument, something that can carry a range of emotions. If you combine it with a particularly talented musician, somebody who can produce real emotions for said guitar to carry, you can end up with a really special little release.
Jack Barnett‘s EP, ‘Keeping Time‘, is the proof of this long standing – but unwritten – rule.
Despite having only two people involved, it stirs up some real atmosphere – Mr. Barnett’s voice is distant, even a touch ghostly, and the haunting vibe it seems to carry throughout varies between dejected and thoughtful, even a little bit of relief at being able to express it all. It’s as if a brain’s subconscious has come alive, and, from the back of the mind, produced these songs – echoing as it slowly recounts its own thoughts, silently whispering them back to itself.
The lyrics, almost illegible, form a very unusual tapestry – all snapshots of periods in the musician’s life, and the sensitivity of it all is really quite touching. It never seems to veer into anger, nor does it ever become offensive – it simply seems to be a thought captured, the very floating, light essence of a dream or idea turned into audio; simple reflection.
The record flows like a slow, gentle river – it has no interruptions, and it seems like one big smooth trail. The wind may push it slightly in places, but the water remains very settled and peaceful. It would only be a shame to disturb it.
This piece is very much an album to listen to while it’s snowing outside, a cup of hot chocolate in one hand, with no television, no mobile phone – just the music playing as the crystalline ice floats around the windows outside.
The EP is in no way going to be a record breaker, nor do I think it really intends to make thousands of sales – it’s a purely creative piece of recording, gentle and simplistic, describing a man’s experience. The enjoyment you can get from it is based purely in the comfort it can give you. It’s such a pleasant, pleasant record, despite the subjects often being dark or unhappy – it has an incredible understanding of drawing you in and quietly making you succumb to a gentle meditation.
This is, simply, a nice record. A far cry from the punk I was writing about only a few days ago – but a lovely piece of simple, calming, meditation-inducing music. A strong recommendation from me.
We were so impressed by this particular EP we decided to ask Mr. Barnett a few questions about his experiences recording a debut.
Cat on the Wall: Hi there Jack – welcome to Cat on the Wall! To start with, would you care to introduce yourself, and your music, to our readers?
Jack Barnett: I am Jack Barnett, I’m a musician based in Cardiff, and I released my first EP, ‘Keeping Time’, on the 1st of September.
COTW: Your debut EP, Keeping Time, is the product of a good year’s work – is this your first experience recording music in a studio, or have you been involved in similar projects before?
Jack: It is the first time I’ve ever recorded something where I am the main input and have all the control. I’ve recorded in bands before but this is different. These are my tracks that I’ve worked on and am very proud of. I’ve never gone as far as releasing material before, a lot of this is pretty new to me and I’m really enjoying it.
COTW: What was the process with this EP? Did it all go smoothly? Anything you’d rather forget about it?
Jack: At one point, the laptop with all of the backing tracks on it died! It was frustrating, as it meant that we had to put everything on hold for a while, and then rebuild the backing tracks. However, in the end, I suppose it made us look at the backing tracks again and make a few changes, which worked well.
COTW: The EP has an unusual sound to it – it all sounds very distant, even haunting. Are the songs about anything in particular?
Jack: I write songs about different things, from relationships to personal issues, but I tend to make the meanings less obvious. You can listen and pick out themes but the actual meanings are a little more shrouded. The title of the EP, Keeping Time, was chosen because every song on the EP has a reference to or a theme of time.
As for the sound of the album, it was a sound that we developed while recording. We recorded around 13 tracks in total, and chose the six tracks that all worked best together- we then added parts and took away different bits so that it all flowed.
COTW: What was the thought process in creating this sort of release?
Jack: It was a recording session that snowballed into a series of recordings and hours of producing, practicing and gigging.
Releasing the EP was the easy bit! Now it’s just promoting and carrying on writing, recording… and even more gigging!
COTW: The credits on the album are very short indeed, composed purely of yourself and Arran Strange – do you have any wish to increase numbers on future releases, or are you happy as a solo effort?
Jack: At the moment I’ve been performing with a guitarist a lot, with several new tracks I’ve been trying out – I’ve written a guitar part and then allowed him to play around with it. Maybe I’d get him involved in future recordings.
Arran and I have developed a very effective working relationship and know how to get the best out of each other. There are a couple of other vocalists I’ve been thinking about approaching for a new track, but I’m definitely happy with the majority of it being a solo effort. I force 100% out of myself, and Arran pushes for an extra 10%.
COTW: What are your plans for the future?
Jack: I’m currently recording a couple of tracks that I’ve been playing live recently, and am looking to release them sometime this Winter. I’ve also started working on a second EP, that, if all goes well, I hope to release Summer 2014 – And in the meantime playing lots of gigs.
Jack’s Debut, ‘Keeping Time’, is now available on Bandcamp – it’s at ‘Name Your Price’ at the moment if you don’t fancy streaming – but if you do choose to name your price, make it fair, eh? This is evidently a labour of love – and one that deserves your support.
Cat on the Wall would like to thank Jack for taking the time to chat with us and we hope to see him again soon!
Keeping Time, the debut EP from Jack Barnett, was released on the 1st of September 2013.
It is now available for both streaming and purchase on Bandcamp.
All music written and performed by Jack Barnett and Arran Strange.
All Lyrics written by Jack Barnett.
Recorded and Produced by Arran Strange