Perhaps the most important shift in Carnell’s recent output has been the transition from making EPs and singles to making albums. In his early days, Carnell released quite a lot of music in a short space of time. You could sense the excitement and the exploratory instinct in each, but they were short, pointed blasts. The scope of each project now is so much larger, so much more capacious, that both the ideas and the commitment have to be stronger to sustain the work through to its conclusion.
“When you’re young and just coming into it, it is that whole process of, ‘I’ve made something, let’s put it out’. You think you’re amazing from get-go, you and your five friends. This is now a career and it’s so much more real, so much bigger, and I think you should acknowledge that and give it that respect, where you are with it all. You just hope that people give it the same, but that’s up to them. It’s a comment on them, not a comment on me. I know where I am with it, I know what I want it to say, I feel like I have achieved that. I don’t feel like the next person can really tell me, unless they can do what I can.”
He pauses, and then there’s that same quiet laughter again.
“Which most of the time they can’t.”
Album cycles also mean being out of the public eye for longer periods of time. Without the constant stream of updates and releases, it can be difficult to retain people’s attention. There is so much to consume all of the time that now, perhaps more than ever, out of sight really can mean out of mind. Carnell says that change was tough at first, but two albums in, he’s starting to appreciate it.
“It was difficult because, when you’re releasing music constantly, it constantly keeps you in people’s minds. But this is the thing, this is where I’m at with it. When you release music a lot, yes, it keeps your name being spoken about. But when you don’t release music a lot, you find out the people who really care. Because those who just see your name all the time are like, ‘yeah, I see this person’s name all the time, I’m a fan’. But when you suddenly disappear, it’s the ones who go, ‘where’ve they gone?’. They’re the people who actually care about your music, because they care when it’s gone.”
‘Value’ is ultimately an album about feeling comfortable and confident as an artist, or at least the difficulty of feeling that way. Now aged 28, Carnell can reflect on almost a decade of growth within an industry that often prizes immediacy and early-bloom ingenuity over the gradual development of voice and technique.
He is feeling confident enough now to take time off when he needs to, to let life happen knowing that he has an outlet for the experiences and emotions he passes through. He knows the really worthwhile ideas need time and space to germinate.
“I think especially in the creative industries, everything is set up so that you should constantly have an idea – constantly, constantly, constantly have an idea. It almost creates that kind of panic, or you’re working for someone else’s timeline. I’ve just got to the point where I ain’t going to panic if I haven’t got the next idea. If I haven’t got the next idea, I take a break. Or I just keep my practice up. I might write tracks that will never be released, just to keep my practice up and keep my technique. I don’t feel the need. If I release a bit less, it’s that thing of like, make it worth the wait. If I’m going to take time out, I need to make sure I’m serious about the next thing I do.”
Confidence, as sports commentators tend to say, is a funny thing – when someone has it, it’s impossible to miss. Carnell sounds confident in himself and in his music, even as that music splinters into a whirlwind of fractured sounds, by turns hostile and enchanting.
His vision has expanded to include videos, art-direction, and a full audio-visual show with Portuguese filmmaker, Pedro Maia. The limits of his imagination are expanding, and he’s confident that this is only the beginning.
“When I’m old, these are the things I’m going to look back on in life and feel accomplished with. Especially with this project, it took a lot of thinking and I knew I wanted to take it further in terms of the videos and the whole visual aspect of it, then going even further with the packaging aspect of it. There was so much creation going on, if I was to just jump in, would I even have the time or the thinking space to do all these things? Research is important and research takes time. This is my whole life now and I’ve not got anywhere near the endgame of where I want all this to go. I need to be patient with that. Patience. Learning patience is kind of the key to it all.”
Visionist plays The Chocolate Factory with Grayscale on April 14.