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Debut album 'Engravings' is the sound of his home peninsula of the Wirral, a stone's throw from Liverpool, a place imbued with spirit and history ('Thor's Stone' takes its title from a local slab of sandstone, said to be used for Norse god sacrifices by Viking settlers). Completed over the course of the year, Barnes mixed the entire record outdoors in the Wirral countryside on his laptop: as such, 'Engravings' is a record that feels as exposed and organic as his immediate environment; beaches and bark, sand and soil.
The resulting record is a rarity in electronic music - an emotionally resonant distillation of the past couple of years in Barnes' life, and an unflinchingly powerful body of songs: both euphoric and bleak, triumphant and heavy. Taking off where his previous work started, 'Engravings' feels more articulate, structured, and affecting. Beats are more pronounced, with the looser tribalism of 'Dagger Paths' replaced with a more direct approach to rhythm. Voices are also more prominent. Barnes spent time learning to splice his own and sampled voices together to create abstracted, elliptical melody lines, and rough snatches of ecstatic choirs interject throughout the LP, calling out in either desperation or elation.
From the train-track rattling drones of 'Onward' to euphoric marching-drum closer 'Friend, You Will Never Learn', the record steps its way between cavernous electronic music and dubby, heavy slow-mo pop. Lead track 'The Weight of Gold' is an urgent, melancholy meditation centered around razor-sharp harpsichord, tranced-out vocals and chiming guitar; ‘Anneka’s Battle’ features a guest vocal from Brighton act Anneka manipulated around a sparse, skeletal R&B beat; while 'Gathering' sees Barnes weave and loop choral voice samples to create a rapturous, hypnotic hymn.
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