In Review: Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song

Through the process of personal reflection and recuperation, Owens' techno/ambient merger champions the notion of interpreting music as a meditative exercise to consciously heal and connect.
Posted: 28 August 2020 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall

Pushed back from an original May 1st release date, the hefty delay has only served to ramp up anticipation for Kelly Lee Owens’ second full-length album; there’s been a noticeable industry thrust in the lead up, having adorned magazine covers and streaming sites aplenty, but Inner Song justifies the surrounding hype.

Threading together her history, personality, and technical capabilities within this techno/ambient merger, two genres of music that can often feel distant and disconnected, Inner Song feels remarkably human. Co-written and co-produced by Ghost Culture, it’s undeniably Owens’ heart that makes its ten songs beat - written in 35 days during a “flood of creativity”, it’s warmth and allure bound beyond the borders of electronic music’s typical framework. That’s likely down to Owens' foray into producing not being exactly typical either. 

Her formative years as a nurse helped shape her vision, that dance music can be concurrently healing and hedonistic. This ideal bleeds from every pore, whether it’s the continual, cathartic crescendo of ‘Jeanette’, or the swirling, lucid synths of ‘Wake-Up’, yet it’s Owens’ cavernous, almost ASMR-like vocals that form the personality behind particular compositions, a softly-uttered bedside manner she utilises consciously and willingly. 

A notable internal progression since her 2017 eponymous debut - where Grimes’ Visions felt like a sonic touchstone - Inner Song points to personal reflection and recuperation, a process we’re all welcome to select and absorb whatever we may need from it. Collaborations with the likes of mentors and friends in Jon Hopkins and Daniel Avery have informed Owens of world-building and captivating on a cerebral level, yet it’s the Welsh producer’s nature that radiates, where the connectivity of a collective journey trumps the individual. 

‘On’ points directly to the aforementioned, as do the ruminations of a broken relationship and subsequent rebirth into single-dom and empowerment (“Feel the power in me / things are different in me / watch a rise up in me / watch a rise up in you.”) on ‘Re-Wild’. The admiration of her Welsh heritage and culture shines brightly in the experimental, mystical ‘Corner Of My Sky’ featuring The Velvet Underground alumni and fellow countryman John Cale. A sparse and refined re-imagining of Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi’ is a bold shout for an album intro, but embraces the notion of interpreting other’s music as a meditative exercise, one that Owens actively asks of the listener. 

As ethereal and reflective as her approach may be, Kelly Lee Owens’ reputation for engrossing live sets hasn’t evaded Inner Song entirely - ‘Melt!’ and ‘Night’ truly thump, regrettably so given the sluggish steps towards the reopening of music venues and clubs given that’ll it’ll be some time before we see her in flight. 

In a bizarre new world where most facets of reality feel discombobulated, we often hear what we want to hear and take what we want to take from music, yet Inner Song feels particularly prescient in that it’s a composition with this purpose as its core - to consciously heal and connect. 

Inner Song is out now via Smalltown Supersound.

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