Kelly Lee Owens | Kelly Lee Owens (Smalltown Supersound) | Rated: 8.5

Having worked with Jenny Hval, Kelly Lee Owens’ self-titled album comes with an endorsement to that collaboration (Hval appears on the record). The album is the debut release from the Welsh producer, singer and songwriter.

Electronic music can be one-dimensional. On this record however, Owens has created music which is at once complex and simple. It’s an album which rewards listening on good headphones or speakers, as much of the subtlety is lost if not. It repays repeat listens, with a new element presenting with each return to the track. “Evolution”, the album’s fifth track, takes elements which have been overused by EDM music, and strips them, improves them, and presents something which is much better. Synthesised strings swirl on “Bird’, with percussion playing over the top, turning into a late-night come-down.

“Different from the rest”, Owens sings at the start of the best track on the album, “Lucid” – she’s not singing about herself, but it rings true when applied to the song (and to the album as a whole). It’s a gem of a track, exhibiting everything that is good about the album. Owen’s vocals, spectral and distant, excellent pacing and a twist two-thirds of the way through. A strong debut.

Favourite track: “Lucid”

Soulwax | From DeeWee (Play It Again Sam) | Rated: 7

Belgium’s Soulwax release their eighth album, recorded in one-take. The band have, in more recent times, been better known for the spin-off side project 2ManyDJs. The record suggests they’ve learned from some of the pop music that they’ve been mashing up as part of that project.

Tracks such as “Is it Binary” and “Do You Want To Get Into Trouble?” sound like music that would inhabit Blade Runner and are excellent pop songs as well.  What’s striking about the two is the percussion. “Is it Binary” begins only with drums, and, given the complexity of the song, you are left in awe that they manage to bring it together as part of an over-40 minute take. “Do You want To Get Into Trouble features a great chorus, synths and bassline. The veterans, if it’s fair to call them that, still have plenty of ideas.

Favourite track: “Do You Want To Get In Trouble”.

Mount Eerie | A Crow Looked At Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun) | Rated: 8

Accompanying each album you’re sent to review is usually a press release. It can, at times be over the top (I’m looking at you, Dirty Projectors, with your three page opus of a note!). As with the album, the notice attached to this one is to the point, and sets the scene for one of the saddest, most difficult listens.

Phil Elverum’s wife, Geneviève, was diagonosed with pancreatic cancer weeks after their first daughter was born. Geneviève subsequently passed away, and this record is a testament to their love and a memorial to her life which is hard to get out of your mind. It’s a grief diary, set to music. In the lyrics, it’s the crushing, more mundane moments in Elverum’s grieving which are most stark. On the album opener, he sings”

“I go downstairs and outside and you still get mail
A week after you died a package with your name on it came
And inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret
And collapsed there on the front steps I wailed”

The record is stark in its production too. With little complex instrumentation aside from an acoustic guitar, it can feel barren, but it’s entirely appropriate. It captures a man’s grief in the most profound way. Heartbreaking.  

Favourite track: “Real Death”

New Tracks of The Week

Drake Ft. Skepta: “Skepta Interlude” – Rather than just giving Skepta a guest verse on Drake’s new “playlist”,  Drake has given the UK’s king of grime a full track. It’s leant Skepta a huge streaming boost and shows how grime is gaining rightful recognition on the other side of the pond.

Gorillaz Ft. D.R.A.M.: “Andromeda” & Gorillaz Ft. Vince Staples: “Ascension” – Gorillaz released a track in January featuring Mercury Prize winning British singer, Benjamin Clementine. Now, they’ve dropped four tracks together from their upcoming album “Humanz”. “Andromeda” and “Ascension”

Kendrick Lamar: “The Heart Part 4” – Correctly proclaiming himself the “greatest rapper alive”, Lamar has surprise-released (doesn’t everyone now), a new track. It’s a slow-starter, until Lamar begins a breathless series of verses, having a dig at Trump and ending enigmatically, “Y’all got ’til April the 7th to get ya’ll s*** together”. Hopefully, it’s a new album.

And here’s the full Picks of the Week Playlist from Reaction

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