Seafield at dawn + Kelly Lee Owens
Dawn in the second week of December. Headed over to the west end of Portobello beach for views of the sun rising over Porty. The tide was almost fully in, with large groups of gulls (mostly black-headed and herring gulls) and waders (oystercatchers, redshanks, and turnstones) nestling at the foot of the embankment leading up to Seafield Road East. I was going to get an award-winning shot of these birds silhouetted by the warming skies, when an excitable black lab out for its morning walk raced towards them, scattering them over the Forth.
Playlist: Kelly Lee Owens, Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound, 2020)
The second album by Welsh electronica musician Kelly Lee Owens features her staple meld of spacy techno and dream pop, its multilayered arrangements giving her own vocals prominence.
Born in Rhuddian in North West Wales, when she was 19, Owens become an auxiliary nurse in The Christie Cancer Hospital, South Manchester. During time off, she helped organise local indie festivals, her patients encouraging her to pursue her passion for music. Eventually departing the English NHS and moving to London, she became an intern at XL Recordings, meeting established electronica producers/musicians Daniel Avery and Ghost Culture (James Greenwood), collaborating on the former's 2013 album Drone Culture. Since then, she has released two acclaimed albums, and worked with Bjork and St Vincent.
Inner Song is a marvellous progression from her well-received, self-titled debut album, released in 2017 on Smalltown Supersound, presenting swirling dream pop, techno and Krautrock, and memorably described by Pitchfork as "a message in a bottle that's come bobbing back from somewhere in the future."
Highlights of her anticipated follow-up include a cover of Radiohead's 'Arpeggi' from In Rainbows. Like Hail to the Thief, that album saw the Oxford band rediscovering their love of the guitars traded in for laptops on Kid A and Amnesiac, but Owens boldly nudges them back towards their more progressive direction. Another standout is a beautifully atmospheric track called 'Corner of My Sky.' This features an evocative spoken word contribution by John Cale, founder member of the Velvet Underground, whose six-decade career has covered numerous bases as a musician and innovative producer for the likes of Iggy Pop and The Stooges and Patti Smith.
Cale's vocals are delivered in English and Welsh in a rich baritone perfect for the latter's poetic intonation. Owens explained a key part of inviting Cale to join her project was to connect with her own Welsh heritage. Cale admitted discovering his native language could roll so majestically from his tongue was a surprise. "I hadn't written in Welsh for decades."