ALBUM REVIEW: Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song
If you’re looking for an Inner Song on Kelly Lee Owens’ new record, the opening track ‘Arpeggi’ is a literal example; an interior view of ‘Weird Fishes / Arpeggi’ that sets Radiohead's chords in a minimalist electronic soundscape. Instead of the original’s overflowing technicolour, Owens employs a skulking bass and liquid synths to result in something sleek and restless, throbbing with the impression of something just out of sight, like a shape beneath silver waters, waiting to emerge. It plays as a kind of opening statement to the album, where through layers of greyscale sounds Owens is looking to reveal the energies that stir beneath the surface of things.
Written in the span of a single month, the clarity of her vision — one that encompasses the ebb and flow of the natural world around us as well as similar tides of pain and healing within— feels like an outpouring of ideas and an insular work of the subconscious all at once. Against the backdrop of an increasingly synthetic and virtual world, Inner Song is an invitation into a lush, dreamy and occasionally dazzling realm of grey matter.
As sylph-like as her voice is above her arrangements, there is something hard-won in the mantras that Kelly repeats, seeming to address someone, or herself, in the wake of heartbreak and loss. Both ‘On’ and ‘L.I.N.E.’ sigh against the linear path forwards that their titles evoke, with 'On' lyricising
"Can only love as deeply
as you see yourself
and you don’t see me"
and signalling her movement towards introspection and solitude. Presences are vaporous across this album, although simply titling a song ‘Jeanette’ and letting fairy synths spiral up into the sky, results in a wordless memorial to the departed. Only on ‘Night’ do these outlines seem to take shape, as a loop sounding like a Skype ringtone builds towards the heady percussion of a dance-floor banger. This track manages to feel like two images simultaneously— where the hazy glow of answering a video call in the darkness of your room melts into the thrilling anonymity of being one of many shadowy bodies dancing in the discolight of a club set. "It feels so good to be alone / with you" whispers Kelly, presiding over the interconnectedness of this shared trance.
Her nocturnal vocals make the album sound like it was recorded during a deep sleep, drawing from the thoughts and emotions that go repressed during our waking lives. Anxiety over climate change, as something we try to push away and imagine as happening far away in ozone layers and rising tides, manifests as another subliminal banger on ‘Melt!’ in which a cascading chorus of thawing ice falls across a relentless beat. This is followed by ‘Re-Wild’, a song sounding like the birth of a nature god, high on cycles of destruction and creation. In this way Owens finds harmony between opposites, like on ‘Corner of My Sky’, in which rubbery stabs of sound play over the gentle rings of wind chimes, as John Cale narrates images of the Welsh countryside from which he and Kelly hail, gleaming softly like a landscape of sheet metal swept by rains and moonlight.
The loops that fill these songs feel meditative and alive. They embody this spirit of interrelatedness as much as anything on the album, giving rise to one another while often sounding simultaneously sad and uplifting, even soaring as the closer ‘Wake-Up’ reaches its peak. Awash in strings and effervescing synths, it’s an expansive and affirming moment that looks past the minutiae of our tech-based existences towards new horizons through the act of waking and repeating, catching and releasing. By the end of this midsummer night’s rave, music therapy session or welcome break from whatever 2020 has last thrown at you, there are only good vibrations left in the air.
- 8.3 -
'Night', 'On', 'Corner of My Sky'
Sam Harding is a student at York and an enthusiast of mosh pits. He is trying to marry music with writing but is running out of onomatopoeia. Life soundtrack includes underground rap and electronic bleep bloops.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a blog dedicated to platforming independent artists and small musicians from around the world. It was created by Ben Wheadon, a postgraduate literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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