Review Summary: An overall good atmosphere is crippled by a terrible decision.
Truly the only thing that really grasps my attention with Kelpe’s Ex-Aquarium is by far the beautiful cover art. Let us take a moment to just glance at its complexity. All right, that’s enough. 2008’s Ex-Aquarium is Kelpe’s 2nd full length album. Kelpe uses an electronic style mixed with moments of ambient. By far his biggest influence is Boards of Canada, not only on the electronic standpoint, but as well on the samples displayed throughout the album (ie. “Under”).
With the relative formulaic opening intro track being disregarded, Kelpe begins on a good foot. “Whirlwound” induces a spinning notion within your ears and works significantly well. The small electronic undertones mix well with a small light drum sequences and a guitar that comes in and out. “Whirldwound” is followed up by a hip-hop type drum intro on “Shipwreck Glue” that really feels misplaced. There are a couple terrible things that don’t work on this track. Firstly “Shipwreck Glue” cuts in and out repeatedly, the problem with this aspect is by far the boredom it induces on the listener with wind chimes noises, ludicrous techno-beat styles, and an atmosphere that never clicks. Secondly the track never flows at all. The cut-in, cut-out style doesn’t help at all especially with the various different sounds never becoming constant at all in the track.
“Pinch And Flare” is Kelpe’s strongest track up to this point in the album. The background voice is fantastic mixed with electronic atmosphere that is kept interesting with keyboards. Kelpe’s flaws on “Shipwreck Glue” are all erased on this track. It follows the same pattern at some points, but adds an ambient atmosphere in spaces. This keeps the track consistent and gives it a good identity. Unlike “Shipwreck Glue”, “Pinch And Flare” is a good affair of drum breaks, ambient atmosphere, and quick lapse into obscurity. The track really exemplifies the massive influence Boards of Canada has on Kelpe.
Kelpe tries his hypnotic ways ultimately falling short time and time again. “Yippee Space Ghost (Sid Version)” adds an ambient atmosphere with keyboard arrangements. The keyboard works well enough, but really destroys the atmosphere that was setup earlier on the track. Thus the keyboard tries to pull it the track through a 5 ½ minute ordeal. Not only is it not worthwhile to listen to, it’s even more difficult to understand why the empty sequences in the track that do not inhibit the keyboard weren’t the entire song itself. The ambient atmosphere is great, but it because increasingly frustrating listening to the same keyboard pattern in different areas that just makes the track worse.
We’re given small electronic skits with odd voice samples that don’t really keep the listener interested or connected to the music. Unlike Boards of Canada who tend to interconnect the ‘filler voice tracks’ with some of their music, Kelpe instead disregards it. The next track never connects to what we are looking for. “Skylla” for example is really unimpressive. It adds a small electronic thump throughout the song, but it never evolves out of it. “Skylla” tries to progress throughout, but it just we never believe it works from the starting point.
“Bread Machine Bred” has a playful style of drum breaks and electronic fuzzy background that makes it one of the strongest tracks until….once again it is introduced with the keyboard that makes no sense whatsoever. Kelpe consistently tries to setup a good electronic atmosphere, but never breaks through because of the countless tries of placing a keyboard to drive the track through the end. “Bread Machine Bred” really had a fantastic beginning, but ultimately is ruined due to the dreaded keyboard decison! It feels uninspiring and to be brief stupid to even consider. None of the tracks that incorporate the keyboard within ‘Ex-Aquarium’ work, only when the keyboard is absent do we get a glimpse of what we truly desire.
There seem to be only a few bright spots that ‘Ex-Aquarium’ has. As relatively dim they are tracks like “Half Broken Harp” that use a playful and whimsical harp with electronic drum breaks works to perfection. Others like “Pinch And Flare” find to be a good listen for the fact its rendition of his influences is flawless. The album suffers from a major lack of identity within most of these tracks.
Kelpe’s ‘Ex-Aquarium’ consistently develops a good atmosphere only to be ruined by odd instruments being involved, mainly the keyboard. It’s like a good idea ruined by countless suggestions that only degrade it. There is some potential within this album; there are some brief moments of great ambient and electronic atmosphere. Tracks like “Silver Nutkin” incorporate an acoustic guitar with electronic beats that heighten the atmosphere only at the end of the track, rather disappointing. Kelpe has his heart in the right place he just needs to find the comfort zone for his music, which frankly isn’t working presently.
“Pinch And Flare”
“Half Broken Harp”