Music That is Sometimes Good
But Also Sometimes Not Good

September 25, 2020

Kelly Lee Owens - “Inner Song” (2020)

Liam Strong
Contributing Writer

   In my hermitage during the pandemic, I’ve strayed away from artists and genres of music I would, under normal circumstances, listen to without committing much thought to it. In June, I listened to a lot of mindless death metal, in July a swarm of sunny lo-fi hip-hop, and for the better part of August I revisited old jazz fusion groups I hadn’t listened to in a few years. Lately, though, ambient techno and house music have been on my mind, because, well, they’re genres that sound like they’re being played indoors, with the atmosphere of a closed room surrounding me.

   And I stay inside a lot these days. Or, these months, really.
   Welsh techno producer, Kelly Lee Owens, in her sophomore LP, “Inner Song,” develops a 50-minute isolation chamber that feels fitting for the current state of the world. At times eerie, and at others relaxing in its gentle, synth-laden soundscapes, “Inner Song” is a seminal work of music created in lieu of isolation. Songs like “Jeanette” make me want to spend an afternoon playing an old 8-bit video game. Along with chill and bouncing beats, Owens wields restraint to her advantage, mixing wondrous pop vocals with sparkling, minimalist synthesizers in tracks like “L.I.N.E.,” and “Wake-Up.” Likewise, Owens’ cover of Radiohead’s “Arpeggi” makes me feel all the feelings, which I didn’t necessarily ask for, but I’m not refusing the emotional rollercoaster her interpretation gives, either.
   In finding a desire—no, a need to relax while I work from home—minimalist electronic music has been something of a saving grace.

   I can (and do, sometimes) have records like Owens’ “Inner Song” playing all day long in the background and I wouldn’t get tired of it whatsoever. What I need isn’t music to help cope with isolation, but music that converts isolation into an enjoyable experience, albeit one that (still) requires plenty of getting used to. Since the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, my Spotify queue should anticipate the abundance of techno coming its way. Spotify probably already knows this, but I want to believe I still have some shred of choice in my life. And, well, techno is my choice, Spotify.

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