Kelly Lee Owens’ self-titled LP in 2017 sent listeners to celestial heights, where jaunty techno glyphs were effortlessly tempered with hypnotic vocals of joyous abandon. The rhythmically expansive debut was well revered for its distinct sense of subdued mania, that was a nod to various sub-genres and littered with perfectly poignant moments of darkness. The standout album saw Owens' elevate herself as an artist, proving she is so much more than a singer. This baptism of fire saw Owens masterfully navigate her way through a world of sold-out shows, festival slots and impressive collaborations with the likes of Jon Hopkins.
Yet, amongst the rapturous response from her debut and abundance of critical acclaim, it hasn’t been an easy ride for Kelly. Her latest album comes off of what Owens describes as “the hardest three years of my life,” an emotionally fraught time that, in Kelly’s words, “definitely impacted my creative life and everything I’d worked for up to that point. I wasn’t sure if I could make anything anymore, and it took quite a lot of courage to get to a point where I could make something again.”
This offering from a previously punchy Owens details the struggles she has faced over the past three years, confronting difficult thoughts and feelings that she has so eloquently expressed. 'Inner Song' marks another giant leap in her evolution as an artist, continuing to build on an ever-growing discography of limitless promise.
The opener for the album is a daring remix of Radiohead’s ‘Arpeggi’, that is a world away from the possibility of being labelled sacrilege. Owen’s opener simultaneously pays homage to the track, whilst masterfully injecting new life into it. The track ‘On’ is the perfect follow up, where yoyo synths quaintly meld with ushering of electro-pop, marking a sonic re-birth of the Welsh artist’s sound.
'Melt' is the standout track on the album and arguably the most experimental, here Owen’s confronts her deep frustration at the ongoing issues surrounding climate change. The track is a frosty reminder of the consequences of human negligence, employing a glacial medley of samples to the sounds of ice melting and people skating. The samples are backed up with cavernous layers of thumping techno that make us want to get back on the dancefloor.
Asides from global matters at hand, Owens’ also confronts personal matters head on in the album. Her personal roots are as present as her sonic predilections too, as fellow Welsh artist and avant-garde legend John Cale lends his distinctive pipes to the foreboding 'Corner Of My Sky'. “John and I worked together previously in a session and formed a connection. I realised that I could hear his voice over this psychedelic lullaby. I dared to ask him if he’d contribute to the track and use some Welsh language in there.”
'Inner Song' is an atmospheric journey around peaks and valleys, from ethereal vocals that transcend reality to riotous head-banging ballads that invigorate the senses. “The power of conceptualising who you are has really informed this album,” Owens states about Inner Song‘s essence, and her second album executes it perfectly. This album is an eye-opening discovery of self, laid bare for all to see.
Words: Josh Crowe
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