Do Nothing – Glueland EP Review

Exact Truth – 2021

Nottingham based post-punk outfit Do Nothing return with the follow up to 2020’s Zero Dollar Bill EP, a release that was laden with abstract lyrics thanks to front-man Chris Bailey’s obscure musings. The new EP takes its name from two ideas, the first being the fact that glue used to be largely produced using horse bones, a horrifying thought on its own. And the other being a synonym for limbo land, somewhere we all seem to be stuck in at the moment. Recorded in Bristol with producer Ali Chant, and in Cardiff with Tom Rees (Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard) last summer, the band took to recording each members part separately rather than the live feel of their debut, allowing for more experimentation in production.

Opening with the dance bass driven title track “Glueland” the band immediately sets a new marker for their sound. With everything in this track feeling slightly more succinct than their previous outings. The drums are tight and driving, the guitar glistens and glides through various funk infused moments and the vocal lines and harmonic rises sway through highly intoxicating melodies. It’s a great progression on the bands sound, whilst still keeping the gritty and almost anthemic sound of previous releases towards the latter half. This tightness is then continued onto the Radiohead worship song “Uber Alles”, through the eerie minor chords and almost math rock styled bass line it gives a new alternative direction to the bands sound. Each melody of guitar, bass and vocals all flowing carelessly on top of each other to create a river of encapsulating sounds. It sounds almost like Arctic Monkeys would sound like if they were interesting.

Bailey’s carefully plucked, not easily understood, yet wonderfully enticing ruminations make a standout return. On “Rolex” he sings of “meeting the Marloboro man” recalling that “He said “Here’s a clue for ya, Jack”, Stuck a finger in my eye”. And on “Glueland” he refers to himself as “Going round in circles like a little baby eel, In a glass of water, all the way to Glueland“. These abstract lyrics help to drive the strange narrative of this EP along and serve as impressionistic views into the workings of his mind. You can get the general gist of what he’s singing about, but it’s best to not look too deep, only he truly understand it as he says.

Unfortunately with all the greatness the first two tracks brought, the last two seem to be trying to live off their legacy too much. Although the riff on “Knives” is catchy enough, it feels as though the band seems a bit tired. Bailey’s vocals are buried in the mix and the bass lines and drum beats that drove the first half of the EP with their intoxicating groove seem to have just run out of fuel and are operating on free trial mode. Then on “Great White Way” the song begins with an atmospheric and swirling soundscape, to slowly add different layers of drums and guitar lines. But over its near 5 minute run time, the song doesn’t offer that much progression to warrant the full length, instead often getting lost in loose jams and understated instrumentals. They may have been trying to lean into a more dreamier side of their sound, but this came at the cost of losing the experimental flair they evoked in the first 3 tracks.

Being only their second EP the band still has plenty of time to flesh out what they truly want their sound to be. Whether they lean towards this more structured and planned out sound of this EP, or infuse it with the raw sound of their debut, only time will tell. One things for sure, we’ll be looking forward to see wherever the band takes us next.

Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song Album Review

Smalltown Supersound – 2020

Welsh born, London based producer, musician and songwriter Kelly Lee Owens returns with her sophomore album Inner Song, the follow up to 2017’s vibrant and sonically emotive self-titled debut album Kelly Lee Owens. In the time between she’s taken to remixing a 12″ of St. Vincent and Björk with ‘Let It Go/ Omen‘. And last year collaborating with producer Jon Hopkins to create the single Luminous Spaces. What allowed her debut album to stand out from its techno contemporaries was its attention to detail of sound movement, consistently expanding and evolving as it progressed.

Where Kelly Lee Owens saw Owens use her voice as an instrument to add to the already dynamic soundscape, with occasional vocal flairs added in, she’s now embraced her voice as a vessel to tell stories. ‘On’ and ‘Night’ showcase Owens ability to drive her stories not just through planes of techno, but adding in elements of dream pop. With the former progressing through heavenly vocal passages of transitioning love. “Headin’ hard in unison, We can’t go forward, Can’t go forward, Can only love as deeply as you see itself”. Backed with ethereal vocal harmonies and a distant synth melody bubbling in and out. The track slowly transitions into a down and dirty techno banger, and whilst it may nearly hit the 6 minute mark it is in a constant state of flux. Continuously elaborating on ideas it hints at earlier in the track; leaving you constantly guessing at what could be next. ‘Night’ takes influence from the likes of Bat For Lashes with its subtle but glowing vocals, cascading out over a swaying techno beat. Eventually leading into one of the hardest drops on the album; dirty bass lines and hard grooves aplenty. It’s Owens ability to perfectly fuse these styles without going too hard in one direction to make the other obsolete that shows her progression not just as a producer but as a songwriter.

The consistency of this album finds its place in the form of the sparkling soundscapes Owens creates, and the vivid images these soundscapes create within your mind. ‘Corner Of My Sky’ featuring John Cale is a slow burning cinematic and hypnotic showcase for Owens attention to detail with sound, and the way it’s manipulated. Slowly building through a loose beat, rising strings and Cale’s doubled up vocals. It feels as though you’re stood atop a vast opening in a mountainous region, the sky slowly clouding until at last the violins swirl with their dancing melody and the rain starts to fall. “Thank god the rain” Cale sings over and over, almost like a shaman calling to the weather. There’s never a moment on this track that feels overpowered with each element being carefully added and mixed in to represent a different movement within this story Owens is crafting. And ‘Melt!’ is a haunting movement that is fuelled by unease. The club like beats, delayed vocal samples and descending melodies draw you in to a welcoming sense of comfort. But lying beneath them is a somewhat haunting shimmer that slowly builds through the tracks progression, becoming more present as it continues. As if you’re trying to settle down at the club, whilst constantly looking over your shoulder for what could be approaching.

It wouldn’t be a Kelly Lee Owens album without moments of techno brilliance as well. Her cover and rearrangement of Radiohead’s ‘Arpeggi’ is a statement of Owens ability to being able to take the bare minimum of a song and fill it with life. Focusing mainly around the arpeggiated chord pattern that builds the main section of the original song. And although the sparkling instrumentation and powerful vocals that can be found in the original are gone, Owens still manages to fill the space with drum samples, glitchy synthesisers and a rolling bass that brings about a new, refreshing and intricately thought out take on this indie classic. ‘Jeanette’ is as rewarding as it is colourful. It may take a while for the big beat to kick in, gradually moving through different synth arrangements of the same melody. But when it does, the pay is worth every second of the wait. It’s a simple groove but adds that injection of energy the song has been teasing towards; challenging you not to bop your head.

There are moments on this album that don’t offer as much flavour as their counterparts. ‘Flow’ glides through a downbeat melody and rainforest like beat, with synthesisers sliding in and out. But over it’s near 5 minute course there just isn’t as much progression as previously found on this album. It’s a nice melody but the track seems to get stuck on this idea and seems to try few avenues to shake it off. Eventually just settling on letting the melody solo out the track.

Owens has certainly come into her own on Inner Song and expanded her already rich sound palette into new and exciting territories. She’s showcases an immense amount of control with the production of these songs, meticulously bending and shaping the sounds and movements to evoke the feelings and stories she’s telling. You can feel the confidence flowing out of the sides of this album as Owens challenges her own ability on where she can guide a song.