Welcome to this laidback genre safari by Barnaby Bennett from Calgary, Canada. While the familiar Christmas songs has been in the air most places lately, I have thankfully dived into the genre blending record ‘Shadows and Reflections – An Anthology’ to escape from the regular Christmas clichés. It kicks off with the Animal Collective-ish ‘A Satisfied Mind’, a psychedelic folk tune sounding like it’s recorded at the bottom of an aquarium. This style is not at all representative for the rest of ‘Shadows and Reflections’, and it is hard to find anything which is, in fact. This just proves his recent album doesn’t lack in surprises and in this crucial variation lies the key to the success of Bennett‘s collection of folk songs.

Three tracks later, in ‘Waltz Away’, Bennett uses a cheesy vocal effect seemingly to create a comical interpretation of today’s mainstream music. His use of humour could easily turn me off, but it is subtle enough to keep me focused on the main thing; the music. His subtle humoristic approach continues throughout the album, often as though he is sending well disguised hints towards other artists and styles.

Bennett often uses his voice similar to my hero of the freak folk scene; Devendra Banhart. This striking similarity could also easily turn me off, however Bennett is clever enough to approach it differently with his gentle lo-fi country style, often leading my thoughts to old western movies with lonesome riders travelling through endless deserts. This mood is especially apparent in the beautiful ‘Cloud / Dream’, a slow folk song with a simplistic melody backed with additional singers, an airy guitar, a harmonica and some handclaps.

I’m sensing a nostalgic theme throughout his music as well as in his texts. Lyrics in the fashion of “Imagining if we lived back then / how different would we be?” (longing for a different place in time), “Far away from city lights” (longing for the countryside) and “Let’s slow down time” (longing for another way of life) are typical for his mellow songs.

Although it gets a little too slow and whispery towards the end; all in all, ‘Shadows and Reflections’ is a fascinating and pleasant collection of experimental folk, alternative country and blurry lo-fi moods. And I just have to say: I’m not the slightest surprised this work comes from a Canadian. I don’t know what does it, or if it’s just me being spoiled with good music; but those Canadian artists always seem so… inspired!

Released November 30th on Umor Rex Records.

Posted by Bjarte Edvardsen.

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