Casually Here - Kept - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Casually Here - Kept

by Justin Pearson Rating:9 Release Date:2015-09-25

If you took the organic, fragmented melodies of Arca and combined them with the ghostly, emotional murk of Burial you might have something very closely resembling the music on Casually Here's debut album, Kept. The man responsible for this experimental soundscape is electronic producer Nic Nell. A noise artist of the highest caliber, Nell might not be served too well by the moniker Casually Here as it's sort of a misnomer, impying a half-hearted commitment when clearly the opposite is true.

Nell manipulates sound like a surgeon. When he cuts, he uses all the precision of an X-ACTO knife. It's uncomfortable at times, but necessary to achieve the results he's aiming for. The stitching together of beats, sounds and various field recordings is where the healing takes place. Kept is an open wound that becomes its own salve in the process.

Damage seems to be the point of creation through most of the album. Fragmented, manipulated vocals come in quick spurts on 'Ode 2' before a brief arppegiated run followed by a slow-down and fade-out. 'Slow Down' is the musical equivalent to tape being quickly ripped off a spool.

Album standout 'Burst' is aptly named. It's big, almost colossal in its industrial, STOMP-esque energy. Tallking to Fader recently, Nell had this to say about the track': "'Burst' is built around a single guitar harmonic stretched and re-pitched throughout, and drums I recorded on my phone out of my bathroom window of kids at the [elementary] school next door playing in a drum circle. It was the last track I wrote for the record and it sort of just wrote itself. It kind of works like a somewhat belligerent high intensity sound bath."

'Thanks' has an unsettling, eerie intro that suddenly launches into a hand-clapping club chant amid a backdrop of percussive clutter. Just as pleasantly unexpected and weird, 'Halloween' is haunted by an organ that's broken apart and mashed back together next to knife-slashing flashes of synth.

Vocal snippets are everywhere, coming from all directions. The pitch-shifts of "One...two...three" on 'As Easy As' are each in turn warped, staccatoed, and gasped as clicks and snaps dance around the track before it dissolves in a marshal drum beat. The disembodied voices of 'Honey Badger' conceal a comforting, emotional current that runs just below the easily diggable surface.

Kept intrigues at every turn. It's a patchwork album that feels spontaneous at first, but it eventually becomes clear that Nell is a master collagist and his art is intentional. What lies waiting in this discovery is excitement, and he's sewn it expertly within the seams. 

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