REVIEW: Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

Dance and electronic music has had a funny old year. With no festivals or clubs this summer, DJs’ and producers’ bread and butter now lies on the floor, buttered side down. There’s a learner driver at the wheel of 2020 and they’ve applied the same caress to breakfast foods as they do to their clutch foot on a steep hill start.

However, and one might like to hope in spite of this, these artists’ album game has been really strong. The likes of Caribou, Four Tet and Warm Digits have had big endorsements from the Picky Bastards writers, and there’s been many a monthly recommendation from our beats and bleeps specialist, Fat Roland. Unfortunately for me, he already said more about Inner Song in 175 words in our Best of August feature than I can possibly hope to achieve in 600. I can only begin where Fats left off.

While Inner Song has its techno high pass filter nose-scrunching moments, (‘Melt!’, ‘Jeanette’, ‘Night’) it’s so much more than that. “On” is the perfect example. If you listened only to the first half driven by synths and vocals, I doubt techno would be the first thing that springs to mind before they subtly give way to the beat midway. So if that DJ bread and butter isn’t for you, especially now that dust and dirt has smeared on the softly spread underside, then Inner Song, like the other albums I mentioned earlier, is one that you can comfortably listen to sat down at home.

It doesn’t need you to be off your tits in a muddy field or wherever to enjoy its breathtaking moments.

I think you’d be asking a lot to claim that this was deliberate on the part of Kelly and others who can’t have known what 2020 would bring, but appreciating this sort of music in a different way is just as, if not more, rewarding.

Like those albums, especially Caribou’s Suddenly, there is even the chance to delve in to some perhaps surprisingly reflective lyrics. John Cale’s appearance on ‘Corner of My Sky’ is not only the best thing anyone from the Velvet Underground has done since 1972, it is also a wondrous mood piece. The timing of Inner Song’s release, just as the year begins to turn the sunnier side of its face away, is perfect for this track where “as the weather leaps, the weather weeps, weeps into winter…the rain the rain the rain, thank God the rain”. ‘Flow’ and the glorious ‘Re-wild’, in which I could get lost for hours, set a similar mood of change; at once sad for loss but full of excitement for what’s to come.

Starting with a Radiohead cover (‘Arpeggi’) should not really be a winner for me. But I’m happy with it as an opener. It’s the song I liked best on the most hallowed In Rainbows and the sign of every good cover is that it’s better than the original, no? Regardless of how I or any other the other Bastards feel, it’s a bold move, and a winning one at that.

So that album game eh? Inner Song is one of the releases I’ve looked forward to the most this year and it deserves your attention too. It’s one of few I’ve been confident on hitting that pre-order button on, long before I had a chance to hear it full. Thankfully, Kelly hasn’t let me down. No, much more than that, she’s come up with one of the albums of 2020.

Words by James Spearing.

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