Charlie Barnes - No Offenkk

Owain Paciuszko 06/05/2009

Rating: 4/5

Opening with with a pulsing static sound that contrasts against the piano-led, string-heavy epic swell of opener Oradour, this is a record that grabs your attention. There's a touch of the downbeat Matt Bellamy or Thom Yorke's covers of Roxy Music, for the classic over-looked film Velvet Goldmine, about the grand arrangment here. It's a very impressive start to this little record.

Unfortunately This Boy Blind has a rather awful processed drum-line running through it, and Barnes' vocal feels a little damp, the same epic swell rendered somewhat cheesy by the rat-a-tat of the drum; it kind of sounds like a poor cousin of the Ewan McGregor/Nicole Kidman duet Come What May from Moulin Rouge. Nevertheless Barnes possesses an impressive and strong voice, and it withstands some of the ropier aspects of the production, aspects that bleed over into Geekk, though to a less jarring degree. Here the electronic fits and starts work quite well against the piano and Barnes' vocal, creating something a bit more like Beirut going electro-pop.

Closing track Architects begins small as, aptly, Barnes sings 'Let's build a city from the ground up', though they never seem to get beyond the planning stage. It's a soft close, that balances the beats and the orchestral much better than the two previous tracks. But there's still something uneasy about the mix, about all three songs that leave them faltering under the impressive shadow left by Oradour. However, as an EP goes by an unsigned artist this is hugely impressive and Barnes is definitely a talent to watch.