Just a few months after establishing herself as an artist to watch with her vivid Oleic EP, Welsh-born producer Kelly Lee Owens returns with her self-titled debut full-length, the kind of record that turns a relative unknown into a music fan's obsession.
Kelly Lee Owens is the work of an absolute natural; these are layered, atmospheric tracks that blend minimal techno, dream-pop, Krautrock and ambient drone into a dazzling, alchemical whole that defies easy categorization.
It's Owens' aptitude for arrangement that stands out most starkly here. On "Bird," for example, she starts with a simple, subtle percussive heartbeat and sustained strings before bringing in a perfect kalimba phrase. She lets that captivating mix linger patiently so that when, a minute later, her buzzing, propulsive bass line and a hi-hat/snare house beat bring it to the dance floor, it feels emphatic.
As if to show both how good she's been from the start and how much she's grown since, Owens includes her first song, "Lucid," here. The first half is in its original, haunting 2014 form, all warm strings, a stuttering tom and a beguiling, repetitive vocal bit; then, two minutes in, she ups the tempo and adds an insistent, pulsing synth climax, a perfect example of her songcraft and production skills working in perfect harmony.
Even at her least dynamic, as on downtempo opener "S.O," Owens shows a knack for playing with mood, subtly switching from mournful to vaguely hopeful at will. And on the thumping "CBM," the album's most straight-up techno track, the synths morph from an oscillating warble to a more distant-sounding interplay deftly.
Kelly Lee Owens is warm, emotive and well-produced, the work of a natural talent that will only get better with time. I can't wait to hear what she'll do next. (Smalltown Supersound)