Local artist the Bins mixes old-school styles with new technology

Local artist the Bins, aka Clark Barclay, remixes past trends with a modern age

the bins
Clark Barclay/Courtesy

While listening to the debut release from independent Bay Area artist the Bins, it’s difficult to comprehend the idea that such a coherent and seemingly organic EP could be made simply by mixing sounds from 200 different records. Operating as a one-man band, the Bins’ Clark Barclay continues the practice popularized by artists like DJ Shadow. By borrowing material from four or five other artists for each track, the Bins seamlessly create six entirely new songs for his new EP, Every Minute of the Day.

Borrowing from a diverse range of genres from ‘60s funk to Chilean protest era music, the Bins manages to concoct a sound that feels familiar, while challenging listeners to explore styles of music that would otherwise seem inaccessible.

In a sense, Every Minute of the Day functions as an homage to all the artists and genres that hold a place in Barclay’s record collection, which helps to explain the variety of sounds heard throughout. “The record is about 90% sampled (…) The concept was to (…) flip through every album I have, find the melody or whatever I need, and then take it out and put in,” said Barclay. “Another discipline I had was to never buy reprints, and I never buy records for more than a dollar. Basically making it all samples wherever I can, and using cheap dollar bins to find stuff.”

As it begins, the EP appears firmly entrenched in the underground hip-hop tradition of the ’90s, as Dizzy Dustin of the Long Beach based group Ugly Duckling makes an appearance on “Ode to LA.” Throughout its 20-minute running time, the record sticks to hip-hop beats, but the melodies make a shift towards folk and soul music. “I love hip-hop and DJ Shadow, but actually my biggest influences are from musicians from the ’60s” Barclay stated. “I’m obsessed with nueva concion […] and tropicalia, which is ’60s psychedelic stuff, and fado, which is Portuguese.”

The final song on Every Minute of the Day fully embraces the more soulful side of the EP. It provides the record with a climactic and ironically triumphant ending that somewhat encapsulates the process behind the entire project. Violins swoon alongside the melancholic bass line and drums, as the passionately lamenting voice of James Brown seemingly contextualizes the song for what could only be a product of ’60s soul.

However there are actually two different James Brown vocals present on the track, mixed with the instrumental track from Gene Chandler’s “What Now,” a vocal sample from the Four Tops’s “Still Water” and a layer of clapping from Pink Floyd’s “Careful With That Axe Eugene.” “It’s really more of a mega mash-up than my own original composition,” said Barclay.

Despite the wide range of sounds on display, the EP doesn’t suffer from incoherence. The lightness and easy-going spirit that permeates each tune makes it all connect on a tonal level, while the discipline of sampling from anything and everything firmly plants the production in hip-hop. The humor behind the tracks also plays a key role in maintaining the joyful feeling of the record, as bits of schmaltzy movie dialogue introduce the lead single, “Don’t Go.”

The goal for the Bins is more than just creating a six-song suite of listenable music. Rather, he hopes to introduce audiences to the music that inspired him. Although Chilean nueva concion may not be for everyone, by integrating it and other genres into a recognizable style, Barclay hopes audiences will be encouraged to seek out the material he sampled in the first place. “There are so many musicians that I sample on this record […] that most people don’t know. So it’s a nice way for me to give the artists I love some exposure, and someone might say ‘where’s that guitar sample from’ and I can tell them. Hopefully they’ll check out the music.”