Kelpe - The Curved Line

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2015-08-28

Two very separate and distinct planes of experience exist in the type of music composed by Kel McKeown aka Kelpe. There’s the heady rational / cognitive kind of response which tries to make sense of the assemblage of musical sounds, and there’s the shuffle of feet as your brain registers a hint of club-land playfulness in the beats. The Curved Line sits on the boundary between the experiences forcing the two sides of your brain to reconcile what its hearing.

A record that takes a while to seep into your subconscious, I was reminded while listening to The Curved LIne of ‘That Subliminal Kid’ DJ Spooky and his mischievous excursions into dance across  musical genres, a fertile imagination with little regard to contemporary expectations.

The Curved Line occupies a mid-space where the imagination has to do the work.  Single ‘Valerian’ could easily pass as mid-tempo party starter because of its insistent march of mixed percussion, but Kelpe’s restless artistry playfully shifts momentum, emphasising different elements on the electronic spectrum. On other tracks such as ‘Drums for Special Effects’, little fissures open up within tracks, filled by ambient calm. I like the unpredictability of that, for the same reason I like Amon Tobin, for instance.

Speaking of ‘Drums for Special Effects’ the interesting counterpoints to the percussion are what you wished happened more often on Konono No 1 so that the whole thing didn’t sound like a cheap multi-purpose keyboard possessed by a hyperactive tweenie. Such are the risks associated with things like toy pianos ; there’s a quaintness about them, but unless used judiciously they induce hostility. My hostility mostly, but it’s me holding court. As it is, ‘Drums for Special Effects’ is a brilliant melange of minimalist techno, world music and EDM, with a nuanced sense of dynamics and a transfixing melody. On ‘Chirpsichord’ however the sweet but slightly mawkish synths ride pretty close to the boundary, the invention being undermined by the fairy floss personality. 

The Curved Line continues a tradition started in the late 1990s of dubbing a new sound for EDM music, often referred to as minimalism, but essentially being a re-pacing of dance and movement so that the internal framework of the music is allowed to breathe and open out more. Composition assumes as great an importance as pulse and rhythm. Kelpe’s sophisticated orchestra of alien and homespun sounds, coupled with some interesting syncopations borrowed from jazz and hip-hop, bring freshness to the electronic palette. 

Mostly first rate.

 

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