This LP already (dubiously) benefits from my (dubious) endorsement on the strength of its aquatic preoccupations alone. At last! In Kelpe's third full-length I have something my own fish (Shakira and The Queen, who enjoy nothing more than shoving their snouts about in the cracks between their rock and all the blue gravel looking for mouldy flakes) would enjoy listening to, if they had the attention span and taste to fully appreciate it. The cover is a frightening and detailed evocation of underwater chaos, its many rendered faces a delightful hint at the multi-faceted nature of the music it fronts. Ex-Aquarium opens with a bizarre monologue over a cloudy soundscape, but soon lazes into a groove on 'Whirlwound', which happens to be a masterclass in subtle expansion. Brashly invasive drums mask the invention within, a shawl to be gradually dragged off with every repeated listen.
'Skylla' similarly urges you to hang on to one aspect (in this case the parping synths) until you're brave to poke your head around under the surface and realise that, by the end, there are about six different melodic hooks and funny squelches fighting for your attention. The danger there is that it might become cluttered, but the elements are so individually simple and riff-based that it never becomes too cerebral. This is a constant worry, but luckily our man Kelpe has done an excellent job of keeping it approachable and layered in a good way. Tricks like the seemingly near-omnipresence of the sound of a ping pong ball bouncing of the bat ties it all together, like those ballsy drumbeats and the murkily powerful synths. Threads run cleverly in and out of each song, you'll discover them without really realising and then they'll crop up when you least expect. This is meant as a compliment, but this record is almost seamless when put on repeat play.
For a record that only speaks through sample and monologue, it tells you an awful lot. Comparable to the avian fixation of Cornelius on his Point LP, Kelpe's thematic obsession is a worthy one, and one that doesn't ever wear thin across the hour's duration. But then again, I'm a biased fish-loving freak. Shakira and The Queen don't actually show a great deal of difference in their behaviour when Ex-Aquarium is on, but if they were a little brighter they might conclude also that Kelpe has crafted an immersive (HAHA!), labyrinthine web of simplicity that rewards excellently with repeated listens.
8Daniel Ross's Score