A remarkable record of extremes, one that’s a product of a distinct time and place in history, taps into inner thoughts and feelings
Kelly Lee Owens’ last album, 2020’s stunning second record Inner Song, was cruelly denied its true moment in the sun, unable to blossom into live performances and sunset festival moments due to arriving right at the start of the pandemic. The creative paralysis of those bleak days left the Welsh-born, London-based producer with something of a void into which emerged her third album LP.8.
Perhaps this collection wasn’t quite intended to be released at this time and in this way. Owens herself describes it as an “outlier”. What it is though is a fascinating document of a time in which a creative visionary was forced into doing something new, creating in a new environment and a new space. It’s equally harsher and more beautiful than records she has created before.
Eager to escape the stasis of pandemic paralysed Britain, Owens travelled to Oslo in Norway to create something special in a new environment and tap into some burning creative visions unfulfilled following Inner Song. During this time she began working with esteemed avant noise musician Lasse Marhaug who has worked closely with the likes of Merzbow and Jenny Hval. The two combined in an effort to harness the inner beauty in Owens’ music and her voice, with a more enveloping harshness and sonic abrasiveness. It’s this push and pull between two different prisms that drives the record.
The opening track Release strongly sets the tone. An insistent mechanised rhythm and a beat that sounds like someone incessantly banging at your door creates a fevered rush. Layered on top is Owens’ repeated vocal of release coupled with some breathy ASMR sounds. It sounds unlike anything she has done before and stops you firmly in your tracks. The absence of any sort of communal dance floor experience in 2020 seems to have unlocked a different priority in Owens’ music. It’s a more experimental priority that makes this her most intriguing release.
At times there is a complete absence of any components of an electronic dance record. Tracks like the tender and deeply moving piano instrumental Nana Piano and the soothing dreamscape of Olga are ambient in a soothing in a way that counters beautifully the more harsher tones of the record. For example the sinister buzzing parting shot of closing track Sonic 8 that sees Owens repeating phrases like “I’m tired” and intoning that something is “deeply wrong” and that it is a “wake up call”. It may be a statement on world events or just a manifestation of a menacing vibe that pervades a lot of the record, but either way it’s a stunning closing statement.
In many ways this album is both smaller in scale than before but oddly larger. It’s not designed for big huge dance floor escapism but instead it’s intended to challenge, to warp your mind, to tap into some inner thoughts and feelings you didn’t know exist. It takes Owens’ music to different extremes. She describes the vision for the record as wanting to combine the vibes of Throbbing Gristle and Enya. Forced to do something different out of circumstances, Owens searched deep within her musical soul and tapped into her deepest creative touchstones to record a remarkable record, one that’s a product of a distinct time and place in history.