Palmistry gives us a glimpse into his singular sound world.
Palmistry is one of the most enigmatic architects of modern day pop music. From his early projects, which saw him perfecting a reverent, minimal approach to dancehall that can be heard across his early releases for Mixpak and his otherworldly debut, PAGAN, to his rap instrumentals by way of choral music and OST samples for the elusive Triad God and his poetic take on pop production, a blueprint drawn up on his stunning 2019 album Afterlife and catapulted into the mainstream on Charli XCX’s irrepressible ‘i finally understand’, the artist born Benjamin Keating has been operating in a space wholly of his own. Constantly caught adrift between the spiritual and the hedonistic, he sings about lust, demons and faith with the same ecclesiastical grace, contextualising his appetite for the party and his ear for a killer hook within a broader artistic practice. He often comes off as an outsider musician whose experiments just so happen to sound like smash hits, a theme he traces on his most recent album, fittingly titled wyrdo.
Featuring production from Nömak, who has worked closely with Charli XCX and Jonsi, Danny Parker, who has crafted hits with Shawn Mendes and Britney Spears, as well as left-of-centre pop mainstay Jerome LOL, wyrdo is simultaneously Keating’s most glossy and most personal project yet, something that the diaristic texts he has released with each single seem to attest to. In one piece, he evocatively describes a “2009 london, pre ban drone hittin hard, fake raves in bussey building, everyone’s catty & chatting shit, movin bait,” before shedding some light on his more formative years: “In too deep, I ran away to study chemistry at king’s college only to be kicked out for setting fire to the department n my final year, baba yaga was always by my side, 078 tinkerbell.” Tracks like ‘harp stereo’, ‘typhoon xtc’, ‘harry’s game’ and the title track, ‘wyrdo’, all of which appear in Keating’s Fact mix, capture an artist reckoning with an understanding of the world forged in anhedonic desperation with sounds that clear a path towards an expanded consciousness and a profound appreciation of worldly beauty.
Keating wrly nods to his narcotic focus in another text, this one a send-up of Hunter S. Thompson’s infamous daily routine. In place of Thompson’s Chivas Regal, Dunhill cigarettes and cocaine, Keating cites coffee, menthol American Spirits and ketamine. Where Thompson rises at 3pm to read the morning papers, Keating wakes up at 3am to feed his cats, Shin and Krit. By providing us with a glimpse of the wyrd world of Palmistry, Keating gives us a sense of where his Fact mix might have sprung from. Inspired in part by visual essayist Adam Curtis’s documentary series The Trap, he weaves together DIY pop edits, some old and new favorites and his own music with esoteric vocal passages, covering philosophical conundrums, the nature of life after death and the applications of psychedelics. It’s a dizzying listen, equal parts transcendent and baffling, with tracks bolted together to map mood and emotion, as opposed to rhythm or genre.
Towards the end of the mix, Keating includes two tracks he worked on with SOPHIE before her tragic death, presented here as a tribute to the late artist. Credited, in a stroke of genius, to Sophistry, both ‘OFC’ and ‘The Worst Boy Band in the World’ are dazzling combinations of Palmistry’s melancholy pop spirituality and SOPHIE’s virtuosic manipulation of synthetic sounds. It’s the result of two totally singular sound worlds colliding and, as is the experience of listening to any of SOPHIE’s music in the wake of her death, an extremely sad reminder of all the incredible work she did not get to make. It’s a sombre conclusion, leaving us in the same reflective space that wyrdo inhabits. “Everything is the same in hell, palm trees morph into opium,” states Keating of the album, cryptically. “Climax coda for a drowned world / 1 life is 2 much and 1000 is not enough. First your money then your clothes sippin with the audience of eternity.” Though the world according Palmistry might be full of sadness and confusion, he leaves us on a note of affirmation, finding strength in his outsider status. “Amongst the massive sewage of online self help gurus, don’t be afraid to go it alone.”
Silentsky – ‘EV5’ x Adam Curtis – ‘The Trap’
Shawny Binladen – ‘Wick vs Wickery’
Young Thug – ‘Up The Side’ (xtc edit)
Palmistry – ‘wya’ x Charli XCX – ‘i finally understand’
C.Z. – ‘Heat Index’
Lorenzo Senni – ‘Michael Rizzo Higher HTN’
Palmistry- ‘dia demo’
Palmistry x Egon Elluit – ‘harp stereo’
Peake – ‘A Case of You’
Malibu – ‘Camargue’
Palmistry – ‘typhoon xtc’
Nicki Minaj x Skillibeng – ‘Crocodile Teeth’
Love Parasite – ‘E Lec Tronic’
The Teenagers – ‘Homecoming’
Ecco2k – ‘Bliss Fields’
Sophistry – ‘OFC’
Sophistry – ‘The Worst Boy Band in the World’
Palmistry – ‘harry’s game’
John Luther Adams – ‘Become Ocean’
Frank James – ‘You Knew This’
Palmistry – ‘fk a deal’ (V2 Ending)
Listen next: Fact Mix 823 – Foodman