By Willow Grier
CALGARY — Looking at Barnaby Bennett’s Bandcamp page is a bit like looking through the “Staff Picks” section at your favourite record store. There’s really no consistent genre, but everything is still pretty good. Since 2009, Bennett has released 21 albums/EPs, eight of which having been in the past two years. The albums range between alt-country, experimental electronic music and his latest foray of completely unedited synthesizer sounds. If this all seems unbelievable for one person, you obviously haven’t met Barnaby Bennett.
A consummate student of the ever-evolving school of David Bowie, Bennett describes why he was so inspired by the Starman. “In a general sense, he’s an artist that represents the freedom to do whatever you like and believe in yourself.” He continues, “I’ve always found it best not to confine myself to one [genre]. I just do whatever I’m drawn to.” Lately what he’s been drawn to is experimenting with an early Roland synthesizer, model SH-2000, of which the project, with long time friend and collaborator Patrick Whitten, is aptly named. The duo saw their second release right after Bowie’s unexpected death. “We were hanging out and were gonna watch a Bowie film but decided to jam instead. Right after we finished recording we found out he had died. We decided to put it out to capture that feeling.” What was created was a spacey, minimalist, sometimes spooky album that is a stark progression from their first release with the project. “I think [Bowie’s death] kinda fucked me up more so because I just went to see his new play a couple weeks ago. [Lazarus] made more sense after he passed away…why he did certain things in it. He was a constant artist, and loved to challenge preconceptions. Even about death.”
Similarly, Bennett is challenging the norm. For the multi-instrumentalist, the most important thing is “just experimenting.” “Three years ago, I made a conscious effort to make collaboration a big part of my practice,” He recalls. “There’s always gonna be some X-factor that the person you’re working with brings.”
Working as a booker for Two Headed Dog Booking, Bennett has had the chance to connect with artists from all over the world, including places like Germany, China and Spain. “Most of my most interesting collaborations have been through travelling. The Important part is not going in with set intentions. We just go in and explore different musical directions and if we like something we’ll try to shape it into a release.”
After releasing a hard drive full of accumulated collaborations and solo work over the past couple years, Bennett is in no way slowing down. By the time this article is online, he will have another SH2000 release out and several other projects in progress, including a collection of country songs with members of the Carter family from Nashville, TN. “Their music began right around the birth of collective conscious. People for the first time were able to hear their music simultaneously all over the world,” Bennett describes, regarding the family’s early roots in a blossoming music industry. “They were the first group to sell a million records, and they had a radio show that was broadcast from Edmonton to Mexico.” Working with Carter family members seems as though it will speak to the more traditional roots of Bennett’s repertoire. “It’s a bit different than experimental electronic,” he laughs.
And in Barnaby Bennett’s chameleon approach, a quote from none other than Bowie himself comes to mind: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
Catch Barnaby Bennett’s DJ set at Market Collective in Calgary on February 13th or with SH-2000 February 20, at Panch House in Edmonton.AB, Alberta, Barnaby Bennett, Market Collective, Panch House