A few weeks ago, a track called Lifted by Palmistry – aka Benjy Keating – went down rather well. And rightly so, as it was a leftfield bedroom effort that took on dancehall tropes and mixed them with a woozy vibe of intoxication, swaying ‘like this, like that’ as Keating sings.
But repeating that trick over the course of an album like Pagan seems a bit wearing, especially as these don’t feel like his tropes to play with. Instead we get a poor facsimile of that vibe from an artist who doesn’t truly feel comfortable in this skin – Sweetness doesn’t meld with its beats, Adeus seeks refuge with questionable vocoded delivery – and instead it comes across a bit like a stoned kid trying to do Kevin Lyttle at karaoke.
Keating may be full of reverence, but songs like Ascent are steeped in artifice. It’s a case of bedroom-pop staying under the covers too long and not really taking any real risks – by the sixth time that beat pattern and melody kick in, it’s all very predictable with no tilling of new ground. Being Pagan usually comes with the assumption of fucking with social norms, so it’s rather insulting that this one feels so dull and conformed.