Review Summary: Move body
On heavy industrial opener ‘Release’, Owens commands you to ‘move body’. The song’s one-tone intensity is uninviting but that’s beside the point. The song isn’t asking you to dance, it’s telling you to – with the firm resolve of a hand slapping a dead limb awake. Move body (or don’t) and are invited as reward into ‘Voice’, an atmosphere that is if not warmer then at least slightly less cold. The track retains the machine-like throb and pulse of ‘Release’ but eschews its watery, metronomic kick for a repetition of another kind, the vocal kind, a kind of ugly three-note melody which forms a part of its foundation. The song, which feels more like an interlude, is hypnotising in a way less coercive than its forceful predecessor, more psychedelic. It brings us one step closer to the beauty that characterises much of the rest of the album (Throbbing Gristle inspiration giving way to Enya).
The album’s third track ‘Anadlu’ is a slow-moving, eight-minute epic that is sweeping in its beauty. There’s some creepy rumbling in the beginning; after that though it’s all deep breath, susurration, chimes, whispery voice and swelling synths. From there, ‘S.O. (2)’ and ‘Olga’ reintroduce us to the beauty of Owens’ singing voice but not, mind, to the poppy, hooky elegance of Inner Song
. For better or worse, the hooks are gone. Only unhurried, otherworldly vocal soars here. Much like the album itself, the two songs mark a fairly significant shift in sound. The ice has by this point well and truly melted. Its waters now puddle in a far corner of the empty dancefloor, crossing steams with the pool of tears wrung by ambient ‘Nana Piano’, a song that sounds exactly like you’d expect, birdsong and all.
Within a span of six songs, LP.8
has transmorphed itself from something heavy and dark into something light and intimate.
The first scene in the album’s final act, ‘Quickening’, with its high-pitched, even-spaced bell toll, is a moment of meditative clarity in which Owens reminds herself of the importance of art as a means of personal expression. Its second scene, penultimate ‘One’, aims at something transcendent, confidently blurring the line between art, the world, and the self. The two songs boast a dreaminess reminiscent of much of Kelly’s earlier work. All the more striking then when closer ‘Sonic 8' transports us right back to the alien machinery of ‘Release’ – a loud, staticky alarm tone of a song, filtered through the prism of nightmare. This time, however, instead of seeking to rouse our languid bodies into dance, Owens offers us a warning. It is (climate) anxiety as a song.
feels, in many ways, like a detour. Where Inner Song
, which married Owens’ tight tech-house production to a more straightforward pop song-writing, felt like a natural progression from her warm, if overly formal self-titled debut, the Welsh artist’s latest offering embodies an entirely different beast, as though it were plucked from some distant future. This is addressed by the album’s title, which pitches LP.8
as Owens’ eighth album as opposed to her third. This in turn addresses a not-uncommon criticism of Inner Song
, which was that despite that album constituting some form of a progression from the previous one, it nevertheless fell short of any kind of an evolution for Owens. LP.8
, by stark contrast, is nothing if not an evolution. And while it's hard not to succumb to the subtle disappointment inherent in hearing an artist you love make such a sudden shift in sound, beyond that initial disappointment is an album that is the artist’s maturest to date. An album that is, somehow, equal-parts icy and warm; which progresses, despite this contrast, with an ease that is masterful; and which, inevitably, leaves me curious and yearning for LPs 3-7.