Keenan Clarke – Too Late @PalmTreesAndKee
Keenan Clarke’s “Too Late” is a song about love, heartbreak and walking away. The instrumental itself is quite lo-fi, like most of Keenan Clarke’s works, and this creates a dimly lit, warm mood, like sitting in front of the fire with candles and your partner on a cold winter night.
The skeleton for the instrumental was composed in around 3 hours. However, the fine-tuning of the instrumental took much longer, approximately 3 weeks. Choosing the instrument for the riff that transitions the hook into the verse, almost stopped this song from ever being released because Keenan couldn’t work out what sound to use. Then while walking his dog, a Japanese Akita called Koko, he realised the instrument he needed didn’t exist, and thus, he would have to engineer it himself so that is what he did.
But even then, the instrumental was not what you hear today. The instrumental was originally made for Mahalia, but as he had lost her number he had no way of contacting her. Due to his frustration he started searching online for a RnB artist and came across Alexy Large, who had already recorded the vocals for another track.
Then once Keenan finally received the vocals, he started fine-tuning the instrumental and the drum patterns to match the vocals. Following this, he mixed and mastered the track.
Keenan’s approach to the instrumental on this track, while working with the vocals was like an author creating characters that are pivotal to the story. Each instrument, each key, each hit has a meaning and that is why even though the instrumental is minimal, it has so much character.
This is very much Keenan’s style. His approach to music is like poetry because of his background, and poetry, like photography, is the art of the unseen, because you only see a fraction of the big picture, and thus, you are forced to wonder what the picture is not showing, and this is how monumental meaning can be packed into a single frame. In music, to achieve this, it is not about being abstract and distorting sounds, for Keenan, it is about creating so many tracks the instrumental is over-produced to create an undeniable and overwhelming mood, and then stripping the instrumental back to the essence of what he was feeling at the time, by deleting things that he doesn’t want to be heard, hence, the art of the unseen.
The rumour is that Keenan is working on a collaborative album called ‘Chivalry’. The sound of this album will be quite similar to Too Late and like that song, the features will be a pleasant surprise because Keenan Clarke is the sort of guy to walk into a room full of strangers, take the aux lead and set the vibe. So don’t be surprised to hear your favourite Hip Hop, Trap, Drill, Soul and of course RnB artists creating a vibe you never even knew you needed.
It is not surprising that the vibe of Too Late is so chilled and soulful, because he is from the West Midlands, like fellow RnB artists Jorja Smith and Mahalia. The culture in this region is very laid back and that’s why people say their accent sounds slow. The truth is in the west midlands, they just take their time… Anyone would think there’s no such thing as being “too late”.