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Since the grandeur of his 2015 debut More Stately Mansions, the multi-instrumentalist Charlie Barnes has got married and moved to the Midlands - but the time he’s been able to spend there has been scarce. With the ink barely dry on his Superball contract, Barnes was asked to join arena-filling pop behemoths Bastille’s live line-up, thus swapping a life spent playing the backrooms and basements of the UK to some of the largest arenas and festival stages the world over. In contrast to his previous LP – largely recorded in one place – Oceanography is a story of snatched moments after tour rehearsals, late nights spent in far flung studios from Wales to Virginia, and ideas sent back and forth over email while on the road. At points it seemed like it would never come together, so it’s some achievement that it not only matches the attention-grabbing maximalist prog pop of More Stately Mansions, but builds and expands on that record’s foundations. And as it would be there’s no getting away from the impact that working with one of the UK’s biggest touring bands has had on his work. For one thing, Bastille’s vocalist Dan Smith himself pops up on backing vocals on Will & Testament. Beyond that, playing high profile festival slots through the previous two summers has brought Barnes close-up experiences of watching some of the biggest pop stars in the world; it’s not surprising that a lot of the new record sounds even bigger and bolder than its predecessor. It’s a long way from his beginnings as a solo artist, armed with an array of loop pedals, a keyboard and a vocal mic. With Oceanography, Charlie Barnes gives himself more than a fighting chance. A record of grace and poise amidst the sonic fireworks, it’s a testament to the confidence that he has in himself artistically, emerging from the chaos as a stunningly realised piece of work. Oceanography was produced by a childhood idol of Barnes, Steve Durose, guitarist of Manchester experimentalists Oceansize and then Amplifier.
|Special Edition CD Digipak [CD]|