Few debuts are as striking as Kelly Lee Owens’s 2017 self-titled album which, simply put, was a revelation. The Welsh producer / songwriter introduced herself to the world with a sound not easily defined, but traceable. Brewing minimal techno and hazy dream-pop with atmospheric, new age ambient and even touches of caustic krautrock, Owens’s spherical concoctions singled her out as a visionary new voice in dance music. 2020’s Inner Song expanded on the formula, but on this album it was not so much the sound but the nuance that grew. Like a collection of postmodern mantras, the loops of Inner Song touched on complexities from the melting of the ice caps on the ridiculously danceable Melt! to issues of cultural identity, revealing an artist evolving her work by revealing more of herself in her spherical repetitions. The sense that Owens has been on the precipice of the profound, present from her debut, only grew with Inner Song and on her latest LP.8, she’s closer to the edge than ever before. Or perhaps even mid-fall. On her first two albums, her face appears front and center, untouched. He LP.8she is bent and warped to preternatural proportions.
The album’s title hints toward Owens having the sense that this work should have come later in her discography. Eighth place, ideally. Perhaps it’s because he LP.8, she dismantles much of what’s coming before it so soon after its arrival. For Owens, repetition is an essential tool towards transcendence. Though until this point, her loops have been framed within the accessible: pop inclined club formulations that would fit neatly onto any dancefloor. Born from a collaboration with Norwegian sound artist Lasse Marhaugwho shares production duty with Owenswith LP.8 Owens strips away these pop inclinations to arrive at a state of liminal abstraction; metaphysical ambience that feels both suspended in time, and beyond time itself. He Anadlu, she chants the title of the track over and over against twinkling bells and a shuddering bass throb. Drones expand and retract in space around these elements, creating a meditative experience that feels like coming close to enlightenment. Release takes Owens’s loops further into abstraction than before. Industrial pistons fire, a throbbing bassline kicks, and the looped refrain of ‘release’ chugs along above a tapestry of vocalizations and breath sounds. The effect is trance inducing, shamanic almost.
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The deft spiritualism extends to Owens’s voice. He LP.8, she shifts away from the club and turns towards the divine. He SO (2) she chats in extended, vibrating harmonies. Quickening opens with the chime of a ritualistic cymbal, as Owens recounts a monologue akin to guided meditation against a backdrop of chopped and delayed samples of strange intonations. Voicesparse and spatial, sounds like a mantra being chanted in the vacuum of space. LP.8 is a far greater exploration into the new age elements first proposed on her debut. There’s a greater presence of Celtic mysticism and South Asian spiritual instrumentation. The electronic harmonium on Quickeningthe mantra of Voicethe loping cadence of her melodies across LP.8’s most meditative moments that recall gitas. The album’s finale, the guttural and visceral Sonic 8, is the most obvious combination of her club instincts with the spiritual realm conjured by the rest of the album, a buzzing industrial monster that echoes Release in its approach. Together, these two tracks bookend LP.8 with the full spectrum of energy that Owens summons on the album. “I’m tired, you’re tired. We wanna be free together ”she opines, sermonising against erratic, primal breathing and urgent machine buzzes.
Thematically, LP.8 sees Owens exploring her intuition more vehemently than before. It’s an introspective gaze inward that takes the lessons learned from the journey recounted on Inner Song and applies them to matters beyond the physical. Her reliance on South Asian cultural and spiritual motifs does bring up questions of positionality and, yes, appropriation, but there’s a sense that Owens understands the material she is dealing with. She is so utterly invested, immersed in her mission to break open a portal to the spiritual core of her craft, that she assumes the role of shaman and us her followers. This body of work feels significant to the future of Kelly Lee Owens, an essential entry that pivots her work toward the profound. Now that she has confronted the pneuma of her art, she has opened a world of possibilities for where to go next. Wherever that may be, it’s certain that she’s fully in tune with herself in relation to her craft.
LP.8 is available on April 29th. Watch the visualizer for Sonic 8 from the album below.
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