Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens Review 


Kelly Lee Owens has had a long journey to get to her debut self titled album, not least the journey she made from North Wales to the musical ‘promiseland’ of London. Working as an intern at XL recordings, playing bass for acts and lending her vocals for other people’s projects were all part of this. A series of promising stand alone singles and remixes from Kelly have all culminated in this her debut album. This work is a reflection of her time in London and the influences she’s picked up since. She has been billed as a natural talent in the cool Electronic and Dance music she plies and a talented producer on top of that, despite many not having heard of her. The key thing for Kelly is; will she leave a lasting impression now?

‘CBM’ was from her Oleic EP from last year and is the only track from that featured on this album. You’re instantly struck by the clicking beats which bend in sound and focus with Kelly’s echoed and repetitive words echoing around the track with a flashing beat beside it. Her spoken vocals come in and out of focus much like the beats and the song progresses via numerous shifts and well placed synth additions. The song goes into a producer’s solo of sorts with almost vocoded synth chords veering off into a meandering display. In this track alone, the fundamental talents of a producer are there. You do wonder whether the album will sustain itself in its primarily angular and cold aesthetic though. ‘Anxi’ was made with one of those influential people in her recent life in Jenny Hval. The track flourishes gradually from the initial bouncing bass beats to the eerie vocals and string samples of the chorus. This fades away like mist into a pit of heavier beats bouncing off each other with the culmination of them being her ghostly vocal samples and echoed spoken words play in between them. This was indeed an improved varied piece of music with a greater musical awareness. ‘Lucid’ only goes on to confirm this more emphatically. Forlorn and whirring chords set against a high pitched string sample opens the track. The whirring chords form the foundation of the track with subtle rhythmic percussion layered over it as the song goes on. Kelly’s faint and shaded vocals extend into the space of the track and these make up the progression to the shimmering nature of the instrumentation. This then drops into more rhythmic beats and oscillating samples for a sleek and understated finish. 

Reverberating and warped electronica opens ‘Keep Walking’ with Kelly’s soft and wistful vocals taking an assured command of the song. This track has a slow progression with which the whirring and wiry instrumentation serves as a platform for the the vocals as opposed to being the driving force of the song. This is a notable shift in arrangment and method which Kelly pulls off just as well if not better. It is here she goes beyond the Dance and blocky Electronica to deliver a beautiful and multifaceted piece of music. ‘S.O’ opens the album and features an array of styles and sounds with the first minute alone. From sparse minimalist electronica, whirring strings and the light application of tribal beat samples. These go on to combine with Kelly’s airy vocals extending across the distant spaces of the track in a ghostly yet graceful fashion. ‘Evolution’ basically sounds like an improved Factory Floor track with the word ‘evolution’ repeated amongst dance beats and house sounds. However, it takes on a number guises here with this song basically having an awareness of depth and the fluidity of sounds and with this in mind, it is a more accomplished piece of music. That is how you could describe Kelly Lee Owens’ self titled debut. It is a talent of production making itself known to the world. There are occasions where you can predict the outcome of a song in it’s structure, but that’s one of the few predictable things about it. It draw from Dance, House and Electronic influences, but compelling and intriguing music from it by basically not stopping there and adding other elements to it. It’s not a revolutionary album, but she’s certainly created an evolutionary album for the genre. 

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens = 8.5/10 

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – Calico – Euphorism

Brighton five piece Calico are a group that truly mix and merge the genres that influence their music and make them evident in their sound and their new single ‘Euphorism’ is evocative of that in combing elements of Post Rock, Electronic and Jazz into a four minute instrumental. It is through an expansive and echoed production and a sturdy percussion section. From this foundation the jazz and electronic variants can extend and stretch across the space created for it. A smooth and relaxed track from their self titled EP expected on October 19th.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Stealing Sheep – Not Real Review

On their latest album, Not Real, psych-folk trio Stealing Sheep bounce back and forth between upbeat, peppy tracks and something a little darker. They know exactly how to create fun, energetic melodies that make you want to dance. Standout tracks include ‘Deadlock’, the opening of which sounds like an 80’s arcade game soundtrack, and ‘Sunk’ which gives us powerful, punchy beats offset brilliantly by melodic vocals. ‘Greed’ is a really interesting track; it’s slower and more deliberate with off-key xylophone chimes, with vocals that seem reminiscent of traditional Chinese music or even Gregorian chants… with a psychedelic edge.

On occasions, Stealing Sheep’s high-pitched synth riffs become a little too much and almost enough to make you cringe, particularly when listening with the volume high. In many places there isn’t enough variation in pitch to give your ears a break, and it seems the electronic sound is there simply for the sake of it than providing us with something interesting to listen to. Closing track ‘She’ is the perfect example of this; the song crescendos into a mishmash of noise with screaming electronic sounds which are simply too much. It doesn’t bring the album to an impressive, memorable finish but instead leaves a ringing in your ears and even a little relief that it’s over.

Although it lacks their signature electronic sound, ‘Evolve & Expand’ is one of the most intriguing tracks on the album. It is comprised of light, girlish vocals which are little more than a whisper and a simple and repetitive guitar riff. The simplicity of the song clashes with the rest of the album and really makes it stand out, particularly when the lyrics kick in with a creepy opening line; “They will cook you up and grind you down for glue and clay”. As the track begins to come to a close, the vocals and guitar are slowly muffled and it sounds like the song is peacefully drowning, becoming quieter and quieter until silence. This is an eerie track that interrupts the cheerfulness of the rest of the album, adding enough edge for you to realise that the band has more to offer than just high pitched synth and drum machines.

All in all, Stealing Sheep have a talent for creating engaging rhythmic melodies that have you humming along from the very first listen, as though you’ve heard the track a hundred times before. For that reason Not Real is a fun, feel good album, perfect for summer.

Stealing Sheep – Not Real = 6/10

Ellie Scott @elliemaryscott

Sunday Suggestion – John Foxx – Underpass

John Foxx was one of the pioneers and forerunners of electronic music. A true innovator who very much carried on some of the more psychedelic-tinged dance music of Silver Apples in the late 60’s. First with Ultravox and then as John Foxx was an inspiration and huge influence to none other than Gary Numan. Another great innovator.  ‘Underpass’ from the 1980 album Metamatic still sounds very late 70’s and early 80’s in terms of the instrumentation, but it is the vitality and tune that is being churned out in this track that makes it sound light-years ahead of most electronic acts prior to him. It is so immediate and razor sharp in it’s quality that it instantly grabs your attention. It then pulls you into the dark and murky depths of his offset vocal and the falling tones of the synths combined with heavy distortion of the synths. He then pulls you back into the immediacy of the chorus with slick and effortless fashion with his spoken vocal ‘Nobody I know’. It is so cold and obstructive but so immersing and mesmerising at the same time. A fantastic track from a fantastic musician.

Single Review – HIRA KING – Run

London’s HIRA KING offers up a piece of luscious and rich electronically charged pop with ‘Run’. It’s ridiculously smooth and melodic it could have been taken from Los Angeles in 1988. The clean and pop-like vocals meander gently through the soft-edged synths and samples which fluidly progresses the song and crates a retro inspired track that is simply infectious. A debut EP will emerge later in the year and this track certainly makes it seem like a promising endeavour.

Single Review – Mother of Billions – Universe

Mother of Billions are a newly formed electronic duo from London and are close to releasing their debut track ‘Universe’ on July 10th. It’s been produced by Jag Jago who has previously worked with The Maccabees and Florence Welch. The self released track opens in a simple cinematic and sparse fashion with the vocal and strung out piano chords. This is gradually built upon with each small synth spring or chime. Strings arrive too as the vocals begin to rise with the introduction of the percussive elements. All of these culminate in an expansive and growing fashion for the chorus. A multitude of simple elements combining to create an intricate sound. This quality is emphasised with the rise and fall that is achieved as a result and leaves that lingering cinematic feel they were aiming for. A track that leaves you curious for what else they might bring to the table.

It’s a cover up! Great song covers – Mr Little Jeans – Waterfalls (Sonder remix)

Back in 1980 a 38 year old Paul McCartney had decided to put Wings on hold and for the unwitting final time people clung on to a full Beatles reunion. But McCartney had other plans. A first solo album in nine years was his goal and picking up on the experimentation he helped plant the seeds for in 1966 and 67 and therefore McCartney II is far different from it’s 1970 predecessor with him resuming his foray into Electronica. ‘Waterfalls’ is a song from the album that is much more calming and contemplative than the repetitive ‘Coming Up’ and the experimentation of ‘Temporary Secretary’. This song was a simple, swooning piece of pop music. It’s almost so subdued and the songs messages so contradictory that it almost deliberately leaves you lost and questioning your own actions. Don’t go jumping waterfalls or chasing polar bears… but I need love. An idea that we put ourselves at risk there just as much as we might do jumping waterfalls. Here McCartney gives electronic music a heart and with good and bad ramifications for the rest of the decade.

Mr Little Jeans is the guise of Norwegian electro pop vocalist Monica Birkenes. She lives in London and records in Los Angeles. This year she recorded her version of the track which was then remixed by Sonder. She has the typical vocal mix of delicacy and power behind it and she delivers the song faithfully for a modern vocalist. Beyond this is a more darker undertone with the blasts of electronica and a slightly hammering drum sample. After each verse the tune is boldly projected to the forefront of the song as it whirrs and grinds in to your ear drums. There’s also times that the heavy, though calm instrumentation drowns out Monica’s vocals slightly as the lyrics are echoed and sifted out eerily in the background. This makes the lyrics a little more amplified with the more uneasy feel of it. In spite of the added atmospheric depth, the song still holds the basic and simple beauty to work as it did back in 1980. A very credible tribute indeed to the great man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Suggestion – Giorgio Moroder – From Here To Eternity

Aside from possessing some of the greatest facial hair to ever feature on musicandotherthingz; Giorgio Moroder is one of the great musical innovators, taking electronic music beyond the infancy of The Beatles and beyond the robotic nature of Kraftwerk. He allowed electronic music to flow and fluctuate and there is no better example of him doing so then with the classic ‘I Feel Love’ from Donna Summer, which Giorgio collaborated with Donna on in Germany and his album ‘From Here to Eternity’ was recorded just after ‘I Feel Love’. The title track from the album has a similar vibe with the driving and rapidly rotating electronic beats. It opens with a vocoder vocal akin to Daft Punk’s trademark vocal sound before that driving beat takes over and Giorgio’s imperfect pop vocal takes over. The chorus is faded in out by a shimmering layer of synths before leading into a relentless wave of high placed synths. The track is minimal, slick, efficient, but also dynamic and alive. It’s no wonder that from this point all the headline artists from Freddie Mercury, Blondie and Bowie were queuing to collaborate with the Italian Disco Godfather. Last year Daft Punk had an entire song dedicated to the man which featured a mini – biography at the start. The French duo like so many others, owe much to Giorgio and his legacy is still very fresh in everyone’s minds.

 

 

Gary Numan – Splinter Review

Gary Numan has had an odd musical progression. From the slick styled and laser like precision of the late 70′s and early 80′s to the more dark and gothic tones of his most recent work. Regardless of this though he is always going to be a legend in the wider and more specific music industry and his early and more recent traits seem to have been combined with his latest offering which goes by the name of Splinter. There has been much praise heaped on this album in comparison to his past albums and its almost like people are starting to get the dark and more industrial feel to his work. Its always great to remember someone’s past work but even better to appreciate their most recent collection of work. It shows they’ve still got the ability and hopefully Gary has done this with Splinter.

‘Love Hurt Bleed’ features the efficient churning of the massively distorted synths that really sets the dark tone of the song. But above that more conventional electronica plugs away at a melody and pierces through the internal sounds while the vocal performance from Gary is suited to him well. He isn’t going out of his reach and the effects and mid note echo of it allow him to be heard over the music but still be dark and atmospheric. I think its more than a decent effort from him and he hasn’t mellowed with age if it shows us anything. ‘I am Dust’ opens with huge intervallic waves of distorted synths that are contrasted and manipulated by Gary’s higher toned vocal in the chorus and softer and smoother vocal of the verses. There is such a glorious culmination of sound and vocal in the chorus as they rise above all the other elements with great power and finesse. The brief lull before the final blast of the chorus only highlights the effective structure of that part of the song further. In one sense it retains the dark industrial feel but at times lets the light in with great results.

The title track is muted and distant at first with the subtle wailing vocals and the quiet movement from the synths which slowly is brought into focus and refined by the percussion. There is such a massive wall of sound coming from the synths and piano chords that are wonderfully contrasted against Gary’s eerie and soft vocal while the backing vocals match that of the rising instrumentals. There is a gigantic sense of awe struck atmospheric quality and understanding with the soundscapes being created here. ‘Everything Comes Down To This’ only hints at the gritty and distorted rhythm that’s to arrive before its bursts onto the scene. The song takes on an industrial churning that’s accompanied by the echoed percussion and acts perfectly as the canvas for Gary’s vocal. Its echoed enough to blend into the music but not too much as to get lost in it. These four tracks are the peaks Gary reaches on Splinter and there are plenty of sizeable efforts throughout. But the main themes here are the manipulation of the music through great production which in turn creates huge soundscapes and stark atmospheres. It also shows what he can still do with his most recent work and next to Tubeway Army, Pleasure Principle and Telekon; it sits quite well.

Gary Numan – Splinter = 8/10

File:Splinter SFABM Cover.jpg

Images from http://en.wikipedia.org / www.undertheradar.co.nz

 

Moodoid EP Review

Moodoid EP cover art

I had a look at Moodoid’s ‘Je Suis La Montagne’ a few weeks back and really enjoyed it and made sure not to lose track of the following EP on which the track is featured and I didn’t. After being an integral part of Melody’s Echo Chamber’s debut in 2012 and getting Kevin Parker to mix the album for them then you know it’s not really going to fall down on may areas and the other three songs match the first. There’s distorted guitars, clean cut riffs, spaced out percussion and loud, isolated percussion. The spaced out gradualism of  ‘La Chanson Du Ciel De Diamants’ to the fast paced and controlled chaos of ‘Del Folie Pure’ and the surreal yet grooved filled Je Sais Qui tu es’ with it’s fluctuating rhythms and soundscapes. The fact the vocals are in French should draw you in. Not shut you out. It almost fits hand in glove with the sounds they are producing. If you’re looking for a Neo-psychedelic-electro-pop gem then it’s right here. I really hope that an album could be produced from them as you know it would be something to marvel and wonder at. But this EP does that too. So take a look.

http://entreprise.bandcamp.com/album/moodoid-ep

Image from http://entreprise.bandcamp.com/album/moodoid-ep