Danny Barwick: Distance EP

- Danny Barwick is a Melbournian muso following that now time-honoured tradition of the producer, multi-instrumentalist, one-man band. Having cut his teeth as a drummer and producer working about the place, you may have caught him ably backing Miles de Carteret and his comparatively sunny, indie-pop-tronic act. By himself, as is the way, Danny, is significantly more lonesome and moody.

That’s exactly what he’s going for, identifying influences like Thom YorkeJames Blake and even Nick Cave and their introspective sadnesses as artistic touchstones. Across the four, mournful tracks of Danny’s debut, solo EP, that’s mostly hard to dispute (although the theatrically goth strutting of Cave maybe a bit of a stretch). There’s something else, however: a genuinely (if not unpleasantly) tortured quality to Barwick’s vocals and something androgynous too.

I wonder if other people hear what I hear: echoes of the deeply unusual vocals of bands like Two Steps On The Water or Spike Fuck. Sure, you can hear the pained soul of Blake is a constant, but I’d go so far as to say sometimes Danny is just a falsetto flutter away from the haunting strains of Anohni. When I think about it Danny Barwick falls very nicely into line with the 'agonized beauty' that’s shared by an increasing number of artists, from Perfume Genius to Xiu Xiu. Barwick does his best to bring the anguish to match those musical co-travellers, finding lyrical inspiration in the heartbreaking poetry of Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski. The Distance EP is not as critically depressed or broken down as that but draws unflinchingly from a well of pain and emotional exhaustion that came spilling out of his own relationships. He often seems trapped, stuck, unable to move on, which produces lyrics like “If only we could see the future in this”, or “if there’s strength then there’s suffocation”, or “I don’t want to be your hope.

It’s pretty rending stuff, and, if that was all there was, it might both be a bit too much and not quite enough. Fortunately, these four tracks are pretty nicely appointed. The beats are pretty standard downtempo, but cobbled together from a wealth of sample scavenging Barwick has spent months engaged in. There’s quite a lot of old, honky-tonk piano, but as much as there is and as natural as it sound, I’ve a feeling it was all reconstructed from an extensive sample collection.

The production work, a collaboration with Oscar Dawson is spacious and pristine, just right for this sort of thing. Every track tends to move from quiet but echoing openings to roaring climaxes, but each one makes it worth it in different ways, from the huge synth flourishes of single Flickering to the ridiculous sax solo on closer, All My Falling.

As if it needed to be established at all, I’ve mentioned that quite a few people have blazed the track that Danny Barwick follows on this EP. However -and though a four track EP can be seen as little more than a calling card- this handful of songs and the window they provide into all of Danny Barwick’s heartbreak, are a strangely compelling invitation to want more.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Distance EP
Artist: Danny Barwick
Record Label: (Good Manners)