Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song (2xLP white)
Kelly Lee Owens' masterful second album Inner Song finds the convention-blurring techno producer and singer/songwriter diving deep into her own psyche-excoriating the struggles she's faced since the release of her breakout 2017 self-titled debut and exploring personal pain while embracing the beauty of the natural world. It's a leap in artistry from a musician who burst forth on the scene with a confident, rich sound, and Inner Song is endlessly enticing when it comes to what Owens is capable of. Inner Song comes off of what Owens describes as "the hardest three years of my life," an emotionally fraught time. "It was definitely impacting my creative life and everything I'd worked for up to that point," she explains. "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." So while the lovely cover of Radiohead's "Arpeggi" might strike some as an unconventional way to open a sophomore effort, to Owens the winding take on the classic tune represents the sort of sonic rebirth that's so essential to Inner Song's aura. "I'm a massive Radiohead fan, so it's sacrilege in a way," she chuckles. "But I wanted to give my take on a track that always sounded like running through synth arpeggios to me. To me, it sounds like rising out of something quite bleak and hopeless, and resurfacing-a comeback from where I was at." While the "Arpeggi" cover was recorded a year before work on Inner Song was properly started, the rest of the album was largely written and recorded over a month last winter. As with her debut, Owens holed up in the studio with producer and collaborator James Greenwood. Letting loose in the studio and being open to whatever sonic whims emerge was essential to Owens' crafting of Inner Song. "With the first album, I was so obsessed with getting the right sound straightaway, which hindered the flow of ideas," she explains. "This time around, James encouraged me to let go of my perfection in the initial moment for the ideas to fully flourish and become what they want to be." The evocative title of the album is borrowed from free-jazz maestro Alan Silva's 1972 opus, which was gifted to Owens by Smalltown Supersound's Joakim Haugland for her 30th birthday: "I'm so grateful for him and his perspectives-he's always thinking outside of the box. Those two words really reflect what it felt like to make this record. I did a lot of inner work in the past few years, and this is a true reflection of that." The hair-raising bass and tickling textures of Inner Song drive home that, more so than ever, Owens is locked in to delivering maximal sonic pleasure-as evidenced by the decision to make the album's vinyl release triple-sided: "I'm still obsessed with frequencies that don't do well on vinyl if they don't have the space." Owens' 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." Elsewhere, "Melt!"-one of the last tracks written for Inner Song-dives into the ever-pressing issue of climate change, right down to it's structural composition: "I always need at least one techno banger in there to balance things out. I knew I wanted to create something that sounded hard with organic samples-one of those samples was melting glacial ice, another was people skating on ice. I felt those were great representations of what's happening in the world. Every moment you're breathing and sleeping, this is taking place. Religion has used music in the context of spreading messages, and we can do the same when it comes to climate change."