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Barry Can’t Swim Drops Debut, “When Will We Land”

London-based producer Barry Can’t Swim scored his biggest hit yet in 2021 with “El Layali,” a cut from his Amor Fati EP that showcased a willingness to blend jazz and EDM. For better or for worse, that brand of classical-inspired house has become somewhat crowded in recent years, so it was his More Content EP that truly signaled he was onto something good. On top of impressing musically by adding more techno and jungle into the mix, the project minted his relationship with Technicolour Records, a deal that led to his nomination as one of Billboard’s “10 Dance Artists To Watch in 2022.”

Barry Can’t Swim Checks off Major Career Milestone with When Will We Land

But, 2023 has been the most significant year yet for Barry Can’t Swim—he now finally realized his debut record. Pressing play on it, the title track introduces When Will We Land in majestic fashion—a blend of spacious, scattered synth hits overlaid with rising strings behind them. The track is a triumph on its own, but it also signals early on that there’s much more at play than just a simple house record. Bits of this one resemble LCD Soundsystem, Romy or Jamie xx.

From there, it’s “Deadbeat Gospel,” which taps into a nostalgic, bittersweet atmosphere while keeping constant that house foundation. The song uses a street-level vocal sample/feature from somedeadbeat, an Irish slam poetry champion and spoken word artist. His contributions are free-wheeling both in tone and message, painting the picture of a bohemian way of life where “we keep Holy the Sabbath as we listen to Nina Kravitz.”

Tracks 4 and 5, “Sonder” and “How It Feels,” close out the first leg of the album, and if you hadn’t already made your home in it, reinforce the level of sentimentality that keeps cropping up. The chilly piano chords and female vocals on the latter do that particularly well—a mix that calls to mind other underground house acts like Ross from Friends and Laurence Guy.

Barry Can’t Swim, pictured during the photoshoots for the cover of When Will We Land. Taken from @barrycantswim on Instagram.

The Affectionate Emotional Center on Barry’s Debut

“Woman,” clocking in towards the midpoint, kicks off the meat of the record, a four-track stretch that contains the central emotions at play with bright, hopeful explorations of electronic music. It also gives us the two true features from Blackboxx & Falle Nioke on “I Won’t Let You Down,” and from just lil on “Tell Me What You Need.” just lil’s piece is a massive highlight: airy and distant vocals that provide a callback to dance pop of last decade, and lyrics that easily stand out as the best songwriting on display with When Will We Land.

To be sure, though Barry Can’t Swim’s When Will We Land very much majors in a lowkey, Sunday afternoon kind of world, there are some high-energy cuts in the tracklist. “Sunsleeper” is among the best, a no-frills jam that samples Spanish folk outfits Baiuca and Aliboria’s 2018 track “Olvidame” in record-scratching fashion. The same can be said for “Dance of the Crab,” the penultimate track, which pays off the reflective moments with a pure piece of traditional house.

As is often the case with electronic music, what Barry Can’t Swim achieves with When Will We Land evades traditional categorization: sometimes it’s indie, sometimes it’s house, sometimes it’s hazy spoken word. At the end of the day, it makes for fantastic music and makes good on how some audiences first heard of him; he’s worth watching, and he’s very much worth listening to. You can find When Will We Land on all streaming platforms now.

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