May 8, 2017

LP: Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens

Enter Kelly Lee Owens' glossed ice universe. 

To be effortlessly transported into the sonic current that is Kelly Lee Owens’ self-titled and self-produced debut feels like moving through a realm of eternally glossed ice. Her style is more than paradoxical. On her first LP, Owens manages to address the clouded reality that's our current and future state of affairs – a society headed with determination toward the artificial, that's unable to see the influences of nature’s creativity staring us in the face. Transformations, spontaneity, evaporation, cycles and echoes are here on this record just like they exist in our every day. You’ll hear it after the first listen, but truly understand it after a few more,

Owens’ ability to produce something this organic is a testament to her authority, not only as an artist, but as an advocate for the value of non-human voices. Her own voice here, in the literal sense, is a carefully placed complement to a core of ever-changing rhythms, samples, and tones. There’s something folkloric and biological about the way each track evolves and thrives off the others. How a spring storm moves precipitously with wind and darkness into pastels and a burden being lifted is how deeper house beats share an ecosystem with forest-derived field recordings. On “Bird,” a delicate orchestra of electronic marimba creates the landscape for harsher drone-like steps. It almost depicts a mysterious creature moving ominously through a wooded sanctuary. While she once played bass for The History of Apple Pie, Owens is undoubtedly inspired by the more sensual electronic influencers of the 2000s.

She opened a recent DJ set with John Talbot’s “So Will Be Now,” and has professed her respect for Arthur Russell, in addition to naming a track after the producer. Her movements on stage resemble early Grimes’, while taking cue from Bjork’s more spiritual relationship with sound and art. Her style is slightly reminiscent of Blue Hawaii’s Untogether and Glasser’s Interiors, but more contagious, groovier. The album is multidimensional of places welded together by circuits of pulsating drum machine beats and a curated verbal stream of consciousness. Her construction relies on a foundation of fluidity, yet one that is reinforced with crystalline percussion and elastic layers of reverb. Most every track glides with drawn out strings which you could visualize spiraling beyond into that other dimension. In a sense, Owens has built her own landscape of pedestals where, perhaps atop them, the party has already started. And there are songs for that hazy dance floor soundtrack here too, like “Cbm” and “Evolution” – more club-ready but still light. In all honesty, I was drawn to this release by spotting the Jenny Hval guest appearance. And admittedly, “Anxi” is one of the standout tracks. But they keyword here is “one of.” What the partnership came to signify was not simply its objectivity for façade’s sake. As you’ll hear, it implies the quality which this album possesses and the respect it deserves. A pleasantly unexpected gem, it’s truly a dimension above.


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Molly Pfeffer is a former music-reviewer making her comeback in Washington, D.C. When not shedding tears over fading Americana and off-kilter noise-folk, she’s most likely thinking about eating vegetables and conversing with strangers.