Kelly Lee Owens is a Welsh artist who has previously released electronic remixes and singles, as well as an EP, to positive critical reviews. Her debut self-titled album is a ten-track album of minimalist electronic and techno music, often featuring her own vocals.
The album is a pleasant enough listen, and the tracks operate well both alone and within the context of the record. The production is soft but very minimalist, similar to the cover artwork. The synths don’t weave and flourish in color, but rather bounce around on a single greyscale note or two, with Owens vocals nearly always present but soft and airy, as if they’re dipping out of the way. There is only one featured vocalist, Jenny Hval on “Anxi” (though her stylings fit naturally alongside Owens’). But I find myself lacking any unique concept, arc or sonic identity to grasp onto. The album flows like water, refreshing, but tasteless.
There are nice moments. The bounce of “Anxi”, its strings and intermixing vocal harmonies, and melodic change of pace (although I’d hesitate to call it a chorus) make it the most exciting song here. “CBM” pulses with a “Strobe“-like anxiousness, and sounds like it could be a great intro for an EDM banger but opts for a swift departure. And the slow, trip-hop beat and buzzing effects surrounding Owens’ high pitched melody on the penultimate “Keep Walking” give the song a darker, eerier vibe than what precedes it.
But on a lot of these tracks, it sounds like there are few, if any, interesting ideas that warrant a full track devoted to what is typically a simple, unchanging drum beat, a bouncing bass, some wordless, reverb-washed vocals, and the occasional synth or string picking out a murky chord here and there. Closer “8”, which is the ‘industrial’ track, is a 10-minute slog that never really progresses or makes for compelling and beautiful ambient music, either. Ditto for the jangling, Purity Ring rattle of “Bird” or the second sequenced “Arthur”, which uses Owens’ “Oohhhs” as an instrument nestled within rivers of bass and drum machine, that make for pretty but underwritten and unexciting ambient music. “Evolution” is the only song on here I really think is a mistake, as Owens whispers the message-less “Be the / see the / evolution / revolution” (yeah, you aren’t the first one to realize those words rhyme) ad-nauseum.
Although Kelly Lee Owens is far from offensive, its also pretty unimaginative and uninteresting. This is no pop/minimalist techno hybrid, its just kind of there. It’s fine. I don’t really think anyone who fails to hear it is missing anything.